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       Coach Heebs Courtside

On the hoops scene with journalist/coach Bradley A. Huebner

SUMMER LEAGUE SIGHTINGS:

From Rahkman to Iorio to Coach Reed to Nesby --

a gym full of rising basketball players at Muhlenberg College 

Parkland's Adam Klinger

Parkland-PM West showdown starts action in indoor

Awesome! League

   Pocono Mountain West gave state Final Four entry Hazleton a tough game in the PIAA playoffs at Wilkes University over the winter, and both teams were in action at Muhlenberg College Wednesday night.

   West had graduated eight seniors--seven to college programs!

   The Panthers led 64-51 over Parkland in the second half of their game. The Trojans rallied with 15 straight points to go ahead 66-64. Twice West missed a pair of free throws. Ishyne Pilgrim scored on a postup to go up 68-64 with just over a minute to go. Parkland scored from in close, then in the closing seconds 6-7 Adam Klinger canned a three-pointer for a 69-68 victory.

   West managed a pullup from 10 feet for the win, but the ball bounced in and out.

   Klinger provided the heroics. You can expect a student with a 4.4 grade point average, one being recruited by academic goliaths MIT and Johns Hopkins, to deliver under pressure.

   Klinger plans to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and study engineering. This summer he's continuing to expand his shooting range.

   "I shot three-pointers last year, but not as many as I have this summer," he said.

   Parkland guard Logan Rindoch played well too, creating shots for teammates like Luke Rompilla after penetrating the zone or scoring himself.

   He was playing in the gym where his older brother Nick had just finished his college career playing for the Mules. Logan, a slender 6-3 guard, has a long list of Division III programs after him.

   "I'm working on getting my jump shot more consistent," he said, "and I'm lifting weights two times a week."

   Logan is slightly adjusting his release point. "Sometimes I bring the ball back a little too far," he said. "I need to keep it out in front."

   Nick used college to make his shot more reliable, and Logan is trying to stay ahead of the curve. Both Rindocks were tall guards who drove, scored in traffic, and passed well on the move.

 

PM WEST PROUD

 

   Pocono Mountain West will have its presence felt for years.

   Three players will graduate and play for Bryn Athyn College. Shermar Ernest will play for Penn State-Hazleton. Josiah Burns at Lackawanna Junior College, Lee Mosley at Moravian College, and Travis Elmore at Division II Bloomsburg.

   Another group of talented, but young, players will join the varsity where only Ishyne Pilgram returns with considerable experience. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged about eight points per game last year.

   "We almost had Parkland beat tonight," he said. "It slipped away quickly. Those guys are very good. I think we can continue on doing what we did last year, but it will take time to get that experience."

   A pair of 6-foot-3 freshmen will enter the high school next year from the Panthers' undefeated eighth-grade team.

Veteran Hazleton coach Mike Joseph encourages his boys.

Hazleton rides Final Four momentum

to down Becahi

and William Allen

 

   It wasn't the Hazleton from last year, the one that trotted out 6-foot-8, 6-6. 6-6 and 6-5 players for the opening tap en route to reaching the game before the state championship.

   The tallest Cougars graduated.

   "That class alone combined for almost 2,700 points in their careers," said Coach Mike Joseph. "But we have juniors from a JV team that went undefeated ready to step in. And they got to practice against our first string all last year."

   The returning point guard--football quarterback Sparky Wolk--was absent, as was starting forward Da'Mir Faison. Wolk is getting offers from Division II football programs and even interest from Division I Colgate.

   But rising junior combination guard Andrew Vayda appears ready to score and distribute. Last year's sixth man gives Joseph versatility as a second point guard.

   The Cougars downed Bethlehem Catholic 56-40 on Wednesday in a battle of young, emerging teams missing key players.

   Joseph said the city council and state capitol house of representatives still plan to honor the Hazleton program for their success over the winter. The coach is caught between celebrating the past success and preparing for future success.

   "It's different than in past years," he said. "We're trying to get them exposed to as many different styles as we can. We're going to tournaments at Drexel, East Stroudsburg University. ... We'll get in 20-25 games this summer."

   The Golden Hawks were without point guard Justin Paz and 6-9 center Kyle Young. Both are receiving Division I interest and a few offers.

   Paz has received several queries from Patriot League schools. He's currently playing in the Dominican Republic with the national team. Young has already fielded offers from several mid-majors.

   And forward Julian Thomas was on the bench but unavailable after spraining his ankle over the weekend. "Doctors say it should be okay in three to four weeks," he said. "But I think I'll be fine in one or two."

   Thomas averaged 6 points per game last year.

   Becahi relied on the Santana Brothers--Ryan and Bryan--for most of their offense on Wednesday. Coach Ray Barbosa also observed several rising JV players who will need to give the varsity depth in 2018-19.

Four-year NBA veteran Tyrone Nesby.

Muhlenberg High in Year 2 with new coach Nesby,

a former NBA player who teamed with Michael Jordan

 

   The way Coach Tyrone Nesby sees it, his son Junior is out of the house after completing his basketball playing career at Reading HIgh-- where he won a state title--and at Scotland Prep for a post-graduate year.

   Junior is headed to Division I Wagner College to continue playing basketball. 

   Tyrone Sr., a former UNLV player and two-time MVP who's now 42, sees this as his time to pursue his coaching career. He had played with Keon Clark at UNLV under Bill Bayno.

   The 6-6 wing spent four years in the NBA with the Clippers and Wizards, the second with Michael Jordan. He played six years overseas--Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lithuania.

   His family had lived in San Diego before they relocated to Pennsylvania where his wife works as a midwife. Now he's trying to build a program at Muhlenberg. Nine wins pleased his players a year ago. He's not so content.

   "Reading kids are ballplayers," he said. "At Muhlenberg, we're trying to make them into ballplayers. I'm a person who loves challenges. We're getting there."

   His ultimate goal, he says, is to become a college head coach, like Reading product Donyell Marshall at Central Connecticut. His lineage of coaches that he learned under should make athletic directors curious.

   From the Clippers: Chris Ford, Dennis Johnson, assistant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The first two are former Celtics, Nesby's favorite team. Nesby also played for Doug Collins in Washington.

   "I use it all," he says. "I steal things from Coach Ford. I still talk to him and run my gameplans by him. I'm always asking questions."

   He also consults former teammates like Rip Hamilton, Troy Hudson, and current Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who also played in Washington.

   Wednesday Nesby's high school team split two games, but the second one, a victory over Bangor, came with a player filling in just for the night..

   Ask Nesby who his Celtics should draft in June, and he'll recommend a center who can protect the rim on defense and swat shots to start the fastbreak. Social media happened to run a story Wednesday suggesting Boston general manager Danny Ainge would like to draft former Westtown High center Mo Bamba, a 7-1 shot blocker out of the University of Texas. Nesby might get his wish.

Pro basketball prospect Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman broke a bone in his right ankle working out for the NBA draft at Michigan. He uses a scooter for easier transport. Please forgive Coach Huebner Courtside for taking a photo in a dark hallway! That's on me.

Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman recovers from broken bone as

NBA draft approaches in June

   Michigan's standout senior leader, who led the Wolverines to the national title game in 2018, was back home at Muhlenberg College where his father had been an assistant coach. Rahkman was working at the scorer's table during the high school games.

   "I was going up for a pullup jumper," he said. "I came down weird. I turned it."

   The shooting guard should be able to walk by June 21. Then he'll start rehabilitating until he can run and cut.

   "I can still get drafted," he said. "Hopefully I get invited to a tryout camp if I don't get drafted."

   Rahkman, who starred for four years at Central Catholic, admires players like Dwyane Wade, Lou Williams, and Klay Thompson. All became reliable outside shooters, with Thompson ranking among the best. At Michigan, Rahkman worked on his outside shot until it became a consistent weapon.

   "Once I started knocking down shots," he said, "it became easier for me to drive and to score."

   Rahkman possesses a perspective rare for athletes that keeps him from getting nervous before games, even national finals.

   "I'm not a guy that gets nervous," he said. "In the end it's just playing a game."

   He hopes that game becomes his vocation. If he makes an NBA squad like former Liberty star Darrun Hilliard did, he'll be happy. If not, he would welcome continuing his career overseas.

   Rahkman's already been to Spain (multiple times) and England. With Michigan he visited the Bahamas and Italy.

    This summer he'll recover in the Lehigh Valley and listen to his agent Peter Bountogianis, who's based out of Cleveland, Ohio. Bountogianis represents a few others players you might have heard of: LeBron James, Ben Simmons, John Wall.

After standout freshman year

at American Univ., Parkland's Iorio back in the Valley hoops scene

American University star Sam Iorio, a Parkland graduate.

   Parkland product Sam Iorio said he improved a little bit in all areas of his game during his freshman year at American University where he found immediate success.

   Perhaps the most important trait he developed was adaptability.

   "Our starting center was out all year," he said. "He didn't play one game. We never had a full team. I had to play center some games."

   At 6-foot-7, Iorio was undersized, but somebody had to play the high-post passer and shooter so critical to the Princeton offense. 

   The Eagles suffered between four and six concussions, with Iorio losing three games when he endured his. But he saved his best games for the local Patriot League teams.

   He scored 28 at Lafayette and 30 at home against Lehigh. Weight-training bulked him to 235, adding five pounds of muscle.

   Some games he played all 40 minutes. He averaged 15 points per game and hit 43.7 percent of his three-pointers as he adjusted from being a stretch 4 to a center one minute and a guard the next.

   When he goes back to American for his sophomore season, he'll have the help of those formerly injured teammates and two new recruits to add depth.

Jimmy Casey (center) and Bobby Rosenberger (23) are two of the key pieces for a promising future at Quakertown High.

TEAMS SERVING EARLY NOTICE:

 

   Quakertown features a young and tall roster of players, four around 6-foot-5.

   Already the Panthers have beaten EPC power Becahi this summer and lost to CCHS at the buzzer.

   With 6-5 rising sophomore Jimmy Casey and rising 6-4 freshman Bobby Rosenberger (23), teamed with 6-4 shooter Matt Lucas and 6-4 power forward Nick Mestayer, the Panthers can start a lineup with size to rival Division III colleges. And many of them will be on the varsity the next three years.

   Though a 6-5 sophomore center transferred to Lansdale Catholic this year, this is still a once-in-a-career roster for Coach Kevin Keeler, who is in his 36th season at the helm. Not many programs can take a hit by losing a 6-5 center and having the bodies to fill in, but that's how deep and tall the Panthers are right now.

   Notre Dame, too, has had a great summer so far. The Crusaders beat Quakertown on Wednesday night after Quakertown had hammered Brandywine earlier in the night. Notre Dame returns most of its team from last year, and the boys are taller and stronger and faster. Expect the up-tempo Crusaders to compete for a Colonial League title next year.

   Moravian Academy, some coaches feel, could be the favorite after their great showing in the state tournament this past year. Add Palmerton to that mix. Like Notre Dame, the Bombers return most of their roster, and their players look not only taller but filled out impressively, too. They defeated Phillipsburg late Wednesday night.

   Shooting guard Nate Daugherty has received interest from several Division III programs.

   Of course, you can't talk Colonial League without mentioning Bangor, the four-time defending champions, though the Slaters will look drastically different.

   Bron Holland's son Ben looks far better as a ballhandler than he did last year. He figures to play point in college and maybe earn minutes as a combinatioin guard. He'll be asked to pull a LeBron if the Slaters are to repeat.

   Ben said that their inside players won't be available next season. Isaiah Jones' family is moving to Florida, and according to Holland, Bernard Davis's eligibility is used up. So the Slaters have transitioned to a five-guard, five-out offense built around driving and kicking for three-pointers. Defensively, with only seven varsity players this summer, they're building their 2-3 zone defense.

   Don't take the Slaters lightly. "Our goal is still to win the league," said Ben Holland. "We've won four in a row."

 

 William Allen Rebuilding

 

   Allen always puts out a great product, but the rebuilding task for next season won't be easy.

   Junior A'quelle Adderly looks like a mini-Zach Randolph. The left-hander will be one of the strongest players in the EPC. He uses a low-post spin move to free his shot and can make the mid-range as well.

   The Canaries are trying to replace eight departed seniors. Hazleton defeated them 69-50 Wednesday with an up-tempo style.

   The EPC looks wide open, with Parkland, LIberty and Becahi as early impressors this summer.

 

Dr. Reed -- Episode 2

 

   Dr. Brett Reed, Lehigh Univerity's men's basketball coach, will be at even more local games the next four years. His son Brandon will be enrolling at Central Catholic in the fall and going out for the basketball team.

 

NBA Draft 

 

   Recent NBA mock drafts anticipated who the 76ers might get with the 10th overall selection this year. In either case, a local player seemed possible.

   One had Philadelphia drafting elite defender Mikal Bridges of Villanova University and Great Valley High. At 6-7, he's long and athletic enough--with tentacles for arms--to defend players 1 through 3 now, and 4 with added bulk. He's a reliable spot-up shooter but not a slashing penetrator, which the team needs.

   Philly could get a great shooter, defender and a slightly better slasher if they draft Reading High's Lonnie Walker, who played one year at the University of Miami. Walker could also replace shooter JJ Redick should the Sixers opt not to re-sign him after next year.

 

Bangor shooting guard Ben Holland has greatly improved his already-solid ball-handling, and he continues to be a deadly shooter.

Lehigh Valley area coaches have chased, won national titles in NCAA

 

 

   Coaches with Lehigh Valley ties picked up three national titles this winter in the NCAA tournaments.

   On the women’s side, former Lehigh coach Muffet McGraw earned her second title when Notre Dame won two Final Four games over Connecticut and Mississippi State at the buzzer.

   McGraw, whose maiden name is Ann O’Brien, coached in Bethlehem from 1982-87 where her teams went 88-42.

   At Notre Dame, she’s been to nine Final Fours and six championship games. The Irish won titles in 2001 and 2018. She’s 800-229 at Notre Dame.

   On the men’s side, former Lehigh player Kyle Neptune helped Villanova to a second national title in three years with the Wildcats' win over Michigan.

   Neptune graduated from Lehigh in 2007 and joined Jay Wright’s staff in 2008 as an administrative intern/video coordinator. From 2010-13 he assisted the staff at Niagara.

   Upon returning to Villanova in 2013 as a full-time assistant coach, he became part of two national titles (2016, 2018).

   Jay Wright also earns mention as a former Lehigh Valley resident. He lived in the Parkland School District growing up. As a head coach, he’s won two titles to put him behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams for active coaches with national championships.

   Wright joined Villanova’s staff in his first stint in 1987, two years after Coach Rollie Massimino had won his national title with the Wildcats.

   A look into the history of coaches with local ties going on to win national titles or at least each the final game reveals a long list of successes.

   Former Muhlenberg College head coach Alvin “Doggie” Julian went 129-71 from 1936-45 at Muhlenberg, mostly during World War II. His Mules made the National Invitational Tournament quarterfinals in his final two seasons.

   Julian also coached college football at Muhlenberg and Albright, as well as a 30-4 stint at Ashland High. To complete the trifecta, he also head Muhlenberg’s baseball program.

   He went to Holy Cross in 1945 as head basketball coach. Having the luxury of coaching artistic point guard Bob Cousy, Julian and the Crusaders won the 1947 national title with a final record of 27-3. The next year the team went 26-4 and finished third in the nation.

   Like Jay Wright,  Julian was a graduate of Bucknell University.

   Former Muhlenberg player and assistant coach Jason Donnelly bridges the gap between Julian and Wright. He joined Villanova's coaching staff under Jay Wright and was on the bench for the Cats' first national title. He has since transitioned into athletic administration at Villanova.

   Lafayette College had its coaches go on to great feats in the NCAA. Gary Williams, who assisted on Lafayette’s staff from 1972-77, won a national title with his alma mater, Maryland, in 2002. Butch Van Breda Kolff coached Lafayette twice. He didn’t reach the championship game but his Bill Bradley-led 1965 team made the Final Four.

   Former Lafayette women’s coach Theresa Grentz played her way to three straight AIAW national titles with the Immaculata Might Macs. She coached Rutgers to an AIAW national title in 1982.

   Grentz’s coach at Immaculata, Cathy Rush, attended West Chester University, like Geno Auriemma and many great coaches. Another player under Rush, Maureen Theresa “Rene” Muth Portland, led Penn State’s women to the Final Four in 2000.

   At the Division III level, former Central Catholic head coach Bob Schlosser guided Elizabethtown to 363 victories, including four NCAA tournament appearances, including the 2002 national championship game.

   He coached 27 years at the college level where his teams religiously ran the Flex offense. The Blue Jays went after Schlosser to head their program after seeing him lead Allentown Central Catholic to state titles in 1984 and 1986.

   Schlosser’s team defeated the University of Rochester (the school where Jay Wright got his start years earlier) in the 2002 semifinals, 93-83 in overtime, and actually led Otterbein by six at halftime of the championship before falling 102-83.

   Just beyond the Lehigh Valley, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma grew up in Norristown before winning his 11 national titles. And Chester’s Bo Ryan was runner-up with Wisconsin in 2015 after winning four Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Platteville.

   Of course, as you inch closer to Philadelphia, the titles accumulate. John Chaney won a Division II national title at Cheyney University in 1978. Herb Magee led Philadelphia University to the title in 1970.

   Pat Flannery’s 1994 Lebanon Valley team won the national title over New York University in overtime with Mike Rhoads. Flannery went on to great success in Division I at Bucknell. Bob Bessoir led the Scranton Royals to the 1976 and 1983 titles over Wittenberg each time.

   Rochester won the 1990 title, four years after Jay Wright had been an assistant there. In 1996, recent LaSalle coach John Giannini won the national title at Rowan University.

  Philadelphia’s Dawn Staley won a national title at South Carolina in 2017. Cheyney State, a Division II school, saw its women finish second nationally in the 1978 Division I tournament, the first of its kind.

   Ursinus College alumnus Debbie Ryan took Virginia to three final fours, and she also brought Geno Auriemma to Virginia to develop his skills as a coach.

Allentown's Abdur-Rahkman

can join local legends with a national title tonight for Michigan 

 

   As Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and his Michigan Wolverines play for the national title tonight against Villanova, the Central Catholic product has a chance to join elite company.

   A few Lehigh Valley legends went on to Division I national title fame in college. Billy McCaffrey went to Duke where he helped the Blue Devils to the 1991 national title with 16 points, teaming with Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley.

   McCaffrey transferred to Vanderbilt where the former McDonald’s All-American became Southeastern Conference player of the year.

   Billy’s older brother Ed never won a football national title at Stanford, but he did win three Super Bowls with the 49ers and Broncos.

   Another Central Catholic basketball legend Michelle Brooke-Marciniak, was MVP of the Final Four while helping Tennessee to the 1996 national title. She had started her college career at Notre Dame (current national champs) before transferring.

   A former high school national player of the year, Marciniak scored 3,025 points for the Vikings.

   Abdur-Rahkman earned all-state honors at Central Catholic all four years, leading his team to the District 11 title each time. His offer from Michigan came later in his senior year. He’s been a perfect fit with Coach John Beilein. Known for his leadership, humility, and ability to take care of the ball, Abdur-Rahkman has become the heart of the Wolverines.

   Michigan finished second in the 2013 Final Four, losing in the final to Louisville, which has since vacated the title due to violations.

   Many players just beyond the Lehigh Valley made the Final Four and some won titles. Most notably, Wilt Chamberlain never won a title at Kansas, losing to North Carolina in triple overtime in a game that became one of the biggest regrets of his life.

   Tarheel legend Larry Miller of Catasqauqua made two final fours (1967-68) but did not win the title. His 1968 team finished second behind UCLA and Lew Alcindor.

   Bethlehem High’s Billy Packer helped Wake Forest to the 1962 Final Four, which Cincinnati won over Ohio State. Packer went on to announce the Final Four for television.

   Emmaus’s Aaron Gray led Pitt to the Sweet 16 in 2007. Dieruff’s Bob Riedy was on Duke’s 1966 Final Four team. Texas Western won the title over Kentucky that year, which led to the movie “Glory Road.”

Former Allen High and Massanutten Military Academy star Tyrese Martin plans to stay committed to Rhode Island if the assistant coach who recruited him, David Cox, stays as part of the new regime.

      THE JUMPOFF!    

 

AAU BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

AT MORAVIAN COLLEGE SHOWCASES PLAYERS PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

 

 

   Local basketball promoter and sports personality Toomey Anderson keeps bringing talent and notoriety to Lehigh Valley hoops.

   Saturday at Moravian College, he ran his Jumpoff AAU event with 40 teams from all over Pennsylvania. Boys played simultaneously on four courts and girls on two.

   Organizations brought teams mostly from the high school age groups, but some brought middle school-aged players and younger. In some cases players returned to the court after runs in the PIAA playoffs. In others, they arrived on a college campus for the first time. In all cases, the event went off smoothly.

 

MARTIN COLLEGE PLANS SEEM STABLE DESPITE HURLEY EXIT

 

   Former Allen High standout Tyrese Martin thinks Rhode Island could name a new men’s basketball coach by next week.

   The Rams lost Coach Dan Hurley when he accepted the head coaching position at the University of Connecticut after the Huskies let Kevin Ollie go.  

   “I read online about (Coach Hurley) leaving, and the assistant coach told me about it,” said Martin, who kept score for the games on one court. “If the assistant coach who recruited me stays, I’ll stay. “I told the guys that if the rest of the guys stay and the coach who recruited me (David Cox) stays, I’ll definitely stay.”

   Martin spent the last seven months at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va., where the Colonels turned in a 30-4 record, best in school history. They advanced to the Elite Eight in the prep school national tournament in New London, Conn., losing to Tilton of New Hampshire.

   Martin returned to Allentown after the tournament, which is not unusual for post-graduates after their season ends. Now 15 pounds heavier than when he left the area in the fall, he’s working out until he would report to Kingston, R.I., at the end of May.

   The 6-foot-6 wing has been communicating with former Allentown Central Catholic High standout Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as the Michigan standout prepared for Saturday’s Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.

   “He thinks they can win the whole thing,” said Martin.

  

YORK COLLEGE INFLUENCE

 

   After a successful season that saw them win the Capital Athletic Conference and make it to the Round of 32 in the Division III national tournament, York College must replace three starters who were seniors.

   They turned in a historic 2017-18 campaign. The Spartans defeated Yeshiva University in the first round of the Division III tournament then lost to Hamilton in the second, 69-66.

   Emmaus graduate Joey Polczynski, who came off the bench as a sophomore, will be one key returning player. Point guard Jared Wagner will be another.

   Saturday at Moravian they were coaching the York Ballers Under-15 AAU team. The Ballers are an organization which has been a landing strip for Emmaus High players.

   Said Polczynksi, “It’s one of the premiere programs in eastern Pennsylvania.”

   The Under-17 squad features Green Hornets Zach Sabol and Bryce Diehl, as well as Berks Catholic standout Casey Jack and Dallastown’s Brandon McGlynn. You might remember the latter two from their PIAA playoff games against Bethlehem Catholic and Central Catholic, respectively.

   Brandon’s father Pat runs the Ballers. His other son, Nike, also plays for the Ballers. Jalen Gorham of York Country Day is a wispy junior receiving interest from some Patriot League programs.

   Pat has maintained a pipeline of Green Hornets, including the Kachelries brothers.

   On Saturday afternoon, Sabol worked one-on-one against Scranton Prep's 6-7 junior Leo O'Boyle, banking a short hook shot and getting fouled in the process. O'Boyle countered by taking Sabol outside and canning three pick-and-pop triples.

   Parkland products Jake Melady and Nick Rappa, a pair of current sophomores, play for the Ballers' under-16 team.

 

BERKS CATHOLIC REVISITED

 

   The last time we saw Berks Catholic they were being eliminated from the 5A state tournament by Bethlehem Catholic at Martz Hall.

   The Golden Hawks jumped on the Crusaders and never let up. Casey Jack, who's being recruited at various levels by teams like Holy Cross and Stonybrook, remembers trying to score inside against the 6-10, 6-8 size of the Young brothers.

   "That's not exactly easy," he said. "Plus, Keba Mitchell got in early foul trouble for us, and he's our rim protector."

   Mitchell has DeSales University and Lebanon Valley College, among others, at the top of his list for D-III programs. DeSales coach and athletic director Scott Coval was at that game at Martz Hall recruiting.

   Said Jack, whose older brother played at Penn State, "We only went seven or eight deep. That was a rough night. It was exhausting because of their guards and the press."

 

JBHOOPS OUT OF SCRANTON

 

   Scranton Area program John Bucci Hoops is setting out to prove that cats and dogs can coexist.

   Rivals Scranton Prep and state champion Abington Heights play together on the under-17 JBHoops squad. Scranton Prep's Leo O'Boyle, a 6-7 post player who averaged around 20 points per game this winter, is being recruited by Patriot League schools.

    The red-head showed a three-point game as well as a low-post turnaround game.

    Guard Corey Perkins of Abington Heights was feeding O'Boyle some of his passes as rivals become inside-outside connections.

   George Tinsley, the hero of the state final win over Mars High with 29 points to hit the 1,000-point milestone, plays for this team, too, but is taking the weekend to recover from the state playoff grind after taking Abington Heights to its first title.

   Also a quarterback for the football team, Tinsley could have options to play either or both sports in college.

    "We didn't get back to our gym until 1 p.m. after the state championship game," said Perkins. "They had a police escort for us. It was awesome. They got people from the school and parts of the community together. We had food and had a great time.

   "Wednesday night we're having a pep rally."

   Normally JBHoops has three players from Scranton Prep and three from Abington Heights. The third A-H players is Trey Koehler, who missed this season after injuring himself in the first few weeks. In his last game before the injury he scored 31 points.

   Coach Ken Bianchi got his first state title for the Comets after nearly 800 career victories.

Ron Sizer (gray hoodie) poses with players from Philly Blaze as they warm up for a game.

PHILLY BLAZE

sizzles on court

as well as off

 

   Ron Sizer brought two Philly Blaze teams to compete in Saturday's tournament. 

   Players from inside the city and surrounding suburbs came together to showcase their talents.

   Freshmen from PIAA stalwarts like Abington and Roman Catholic joined players from various other schools like Fels, Freire Charter, Upper Dublin, etc.

   Sizer has run the organization for seven years. He's produced standouts like Archbishop Wood's Julius Phillips, a hopeful D-1 player, and LaSalle College Prep junior Allen Powell.

   "We get a lot of Division II (level) kids," said Sizer. "We had Khalil White, who was freshman of the year in his conference at Penn State-Harrisburg. And we never cut anyone."

   Sizer said he canvasses recreational centers like Water Town, Jardel, Schissler, and others to find players. Saturday he brought an A team and a B team.

   "If our kids are in the rec centers, they're not out on the streets. Last year 100 percent of our kids graduated from their high schools," said Sizer, who also teaches at Ben Franklin High.

   Two former Blaze and Abington High players figure to make Moravian their college basketball home: Brandon and Bryan Coffman.

 

WILKES-BARRE WARRIORS

 

   Anthony Cavanaugh brought 55 kids from grades 6-12, including two girls teams, from Wilkes-Barre in a bus he paid for.

   He draws from the Catholic Youth Center. As we chatted, he pointed to a group of young players who "just put up 82 points in the 11th-grade division."

   Past standouts include Will Johnson of Wilkes-Barre GAR, who averaged over 20 points per game this winter.  This group features 6-2, 280-pound sophomore Sam Solomon from Wyoming Valley West.

   Solomon figures to play football in college, with schools like Penn State, Rutgers, Villanova, Mississippi State showing early interest.

   "Last year I had 20 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and 100 tackles overall," Solomon said. "I bench press 250 pounds. Basketball keeps my agility up, and it's fun."

   Solomon looks up to former Wyoming Valley West lineman Chris Bleich, a 6-6 presence on the Florida Gators' squad.

The Running Rebels' Jevin Muniz stars for one of the 15-under squads.

L&L Running Rebels

represent Lehigh Valley

 

Organization enters two 15-under, 16-under teams and one 17-under squad

 

   The L&L Running Rebels went 2-0 with their top Under-16 entry on Saturday, beating the York Ballers and JBHoops out of Scranton, both by double digits.

   Stars included Allen's Ruy Ortega, Liberty's Will Harper, and Pottsville's Mason Barnes and Kevin Schenck. Rontay Dunbar of Christ the King is also on the team. He's moving into the area near his cousin Lewis Hargett, a former Freedom player now at Penn State-Lehigh Valley.

   The two under-15 teams include several Bethlehem players, including LIberty's Alijah Cannon, Rondel McNeil, Antonio Montgomery, and Eric Ludwick, as well as Freedom's Jevin Muniz, Parkland's Trey Rolle, and Central Catholic's Christian Spugnardi. Pottstown's Darius Smallwood rounds out the lineup.

   The 15-unders beat the York Ballers in their first game.

Reading High's eighth and ninth graders feature four players 6-4 to 6-5.

Reading High developing kids with length, size

   

   The Reading Red Knights, state champions two years ago and state playoff participants this past year, are reloading at the younger levels.

   Their eighth-grade group won the title at the tournament at Spooky Nook last week. Their ninth-grade group and a few eighth-graders teamed up on Saturday at The Jumpoff, looking more like a varsity squad than a freshman or JV team.

   Guard Daniel Aocantara is average height, but he's surrounded by skinny and athletic teammates with great varsity size.

   Denim Adams (6-4), Moro Osumanu (6-5) and Ermil Fleurinvil (6-5) comprise the front court. Joseph Chapman was the other guard on Saturday.

   In one game Saturday, Adams dunked and hit a corner three.

   The freshmen only went 1-2 in pool play at Spooky Nook, but one loss came against a strong New Jersey team.

PV Bears' tallest and best player?

 

   

   Emmaus High sophomore Aiden Williams stands 6-8 and has led the Pleasant Valley Bears' AAU group in the offseason.

   Williams will enroll in the Perkiomen School . next fall and play for the Panthers. Before that he'll try to develop his low-post game.

Rejuvenated Boston Univ. eliminates Lehigh 88-82 in Patriot League quarterfinals

 

 

    Lehigh’s season ended Thursday night against a Boston University team carried by 6-8 sophomore Max Mahoney, whose coach had challenged him to give “even more” in the postseason.

   The Basking Ridge, N.J., product scored 27 points, including two soaring tomahawk dunks, as the fifth-seeded Terriers (15-15, 11-8 Patriot League) beat the Mountain Hawks at Stabler Arena, 88-82.

   The Terriers advanced to Sunday’s semifinal game at top seed Bucknell.

   Fourth-seeded Lehigh (16-14, 11-8) saw its eight-game winning streak stopped and with it, the record-setting career of point guard Kahron Ross, who holds the league’s career assist mark with 660. Lehigh’s fans and both benches stood and applauded out of respect when Ross fouled out.

   “It felt great,” Ross said, “but at the same time it hurts a lot.”

   Ross and guard Jordan Cohen led Lehigh with 17 points apiece. Pat Andree had 15 despite facing first-half foul trouble. Center James Karnik and guard Lance Tejada had 13 each as five players hit double figures.

   Karnik and Andree each picked up their third fouls early in the second half as Boston expanded a three-point lead to double digits.

   Ross tried his best to lead his young teammates into the semifinals, but he faced a talented opponent making their shots and sharing the ball (19 assists).

   Boston coach Joe Jones pointed out that several shots bounced around the rim and in for his team, and around the rim and out for Lehigh.

   In one stretch, BU canned a three-pointer that bounced around the rim four times before falling. On Lehigh’s next possession, Marques Wilson’s corner shot slid around the entire rim and snaked out.

   Ross stayed consistent by hitting 6 of 10 field goals, including 4 of 6 three-pointers. He added three assists, four steals, and a block of Boston’s backup center.

  “If there’s a guy who needs to be the assist leader for our conference,” said Joe Jones, “it should be him.”

   From the start, Lehigh looked out of sync.

   Pat Andree gave Lehigh a 2-0 lead when he sank an eight-footer in the lane. Lehigh’s only lead lasted all of 59 seconds. Mahoney’s first dunk gave BU a 4-2 lead; the Mountain Hawks trailed thereafter.

   Boston University, which was second in the league before going on a five-game losing streak that started with a Feb. 3 loss at Lehigh, returned to form Thursday.

   “We finished the regular season with two wins,” said Mahoney. “I thought that was really big for us, getting our confidence back right before the postseason. We got all our guys back and healthy. Walter Whyte coming back was great.”

    Both teams played 2-3 zones, but BU fronted theirs with 6-5 and 6-6 length. That seemed to bother Lehigh’s shooters in the first half when both teams committed uncharacteristic turnovers.

   “I think their game plan was to chase us off the (three-point) line,” said Ross. “And we just kept settling for threes. They were playing the passing lanes and the lane was wide open. We should have attacked more.”

   BU passed over and around Lehigh’s smaller front of 5-11 and 6-2 and found Mahoney in the low block and along the baseline.

   Boston coach Joe Jones said his athletic director had told him he expected a big season from Mahoney because he had been a football player and was, therefore, tough. Before the playoffs, Jones pulled Mahoney aside and asked for more … more effort, more physicality, more urgency on offense.

   Mahoney responded with his second-best output this season.   He averages 12.8 points per game and recorded his other Patriot League high of 27 against Loyola. His season high was 29 against UMass-Lowell.

   On Thursday the power forward made 9 of 13 field goal attempts and 9 of 10 free throws.

   Said Ross, “He’s really tough when he’s hitting his outside shots, too.”

   “Tonight he took his game to another level,” said his coach. “He was sensational.”

   When Lehigh keyed on him in the second half, he kicked to open shooters. After Lehigh’s Pat Andree buried a three-pointer 3:09 into the second half to pull to within 44-38, the Terriers went on a 25-11 run for a 69-49 cushion.

   The Terriers hit five three-pointers during the stretch by four different players. Javonte McCoy led them with four three-pointers on the way to 21 points. Whyte, whose recent return to health spearheaded Boston’s return to winning, had 16 points and eight rebounds.

   Lehigh had burned through February unbeaten for the second time in three years, but when the calendar hit March they suffered their first loss since Jan. 27 at home against Navy.

   Boston took the season series against Lehigh 2-1.  

   Thursday’s win more resembled BU’s Jan. 8 win over Lehigh in Massachusetts, 91-82, than Lehigh’s 80-75 victory here on Feb. 3. In BU’s early win, Mahoney led with 22 points. He had only seven in Lehigh’s regular-season win.

  So while the Terriers’ seed reads “fifth,” a healthy roster would place them in the top two.

   BU outplayed Lehigh in the first half but led just 33-30 after Jordan Cohen ended the half by hitting a pullup 17-footer. Though Lehigh stayed close, signs of impending problems appeared. Shooting guard Lance Tejada, sharpshooter Pat Andree, and center James Karnik each picked up two fouls, sending them to the bench in the first half.

   They turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes, many times inexplicably. Boston’s Cedric Hankerson stole passes three times.

   They crisp play Lehigh fans had grown accustomed to during the winning streak didn’t take.

   “I’d never seen a team play from the time that we played them last to the level they were playing at was so impressive to me,” Jones said of a Lehigh team that ranked in the top six nationally in three-point shooting. “I just kept watching game after game after game. Brett Reed deserves a lot of credit.”

   The fight never wavered. Lehigh full-court pressed back into the game late, drawing to within 85-80 with 30 seconds left.

   “This year the team was really close,” said Ross. “I’m going to miss every part of it, being around the coaching staff every day, being around the guys, just being together.”

   “I looked forward to seeing these guys every day at practice,” said Coach Brett Reed. “And Kahron Ross is the model of that.”

Lehigh senior Kahron Ross poses with Coach Brett Reed and his family from Arkansas on Senior Night.
A nice crowd at Stabler Arena took in the rivalry showdown.

Solid support sees Lehigh senior Ross off in style in showdown against rival Lafayette

 

Leopards hosts playoff game Tuesday while Lehigh hosts Boston Univ. on Thursday

 

 

 

 

   With mom, dad and godmother in town from Arkansas to see his final regular-season home game, Lehigh senior point guard Kahron Ross ignited Lehigh with seven points to stake a 9-3 lead over rival Lafayette.

   The Patriot League’s all-time assist leader finished with 17 points. The Mountain Hawk guards followed their leader’s example in a balanced, impressive 79-64 victory Saturday at Stabler Arena.

   Lehigh’s eighth straight win ensured a home playoff game against Boston University and kept Lehigh (16-13, 11-7 PL) unbeaten in February for the second time in three seasons.

   Coach Brett Reed moved to within two wins of career No. 200 in his 11th season.

   “I’m so proud to be able to send Kahron out of his last regular-season home game with a win,” said Reed. “He’s been a wizard with the ball. He plays his best when he’s aggressive and assertive.”

   Lehigh guards Jordan Cohen (12), Lance Tejada (13), Marques Wilson (12) and Kyle Leufroy (7) joined Ross in controlling the game with balance.

   “For us to have four guys in double figures and strong scoring contributions from  even a lot of other players,” said Coach Brett Reed, “is an indicator of our season and why we’ve been able to be successful. Each and every night we’ve had a variety of different people in the rotation be able to step up. I think that makes us hard to guard because at any given time—and even with in games--guys can be responsible for starting runs.”

   When your senior point guard and leader plays unselfishly, putting winning before personal numbers, it sets a tone. Lehigh fans have grown accustomed to seeing the smallish point guard play big without forgetting to bring along his younger teammates.

   Ross’s parents witnessed the maturity in person.

   “This was the first time they’ve been to Lehigh in two years, but they came to (California) to see our USC game,” said Ross. “I wanted to put on a show for my family. I was just trying to be aggressive. I came out the first few minutes and had a few open looks.”

   After trailing 48-31 at halftime, Lafayette (9-20, 7-11) cut the second-half deficit to 12, but each time the Mountain Hawks answered with a run.

   Freshman Marques Wilson scored 12 points with eight rebounds in the first half.

   “When you have the best point guard in the Patriot League,” he said, “finding you all over the place, it makes the game a lot easier.”

   Lehigh earned the season sweep over the Leopards and dropped Fran O’Hanlon to 25-25 against his rivals.

   Lafayette advances to Tuesday’s initial round of the league tournament at home. Leading scorer Alex Petrie faced stiff defense all night. The freshman scored 11 points on 4-15 shooting, 1-6 from three-point range.

   Coach O’Hanlon credited Lehigh’s defense for crowding his scorers, then outrebounding the Leopards by 14 once shots went up.

   Senior Matt Klinewski finished with a hard-earned 13 points and seven rebounds. Justin Jaworski scored 13, 11 of which came before halftime. The Leopards converted just six of 26 three-point attempts.

   Petrie and emerging guard E.J. Stephens scored 11 apiece. Leopard post player Paulius Zalyus led the Leopards with five assists as their inside-out game became a primary option.

   In the early-season meeting at Lafayette, Lehigh rallied late to escape with a close victory. Saturday’s game wasn’t as competitive.

   “I think we’re the hottest team in the league right now,” said Ross. “The last few years we’ve been right there (in the hunt for a league title and NCAA bid). The difference between a championship team and what we’ve been the last few years is small. In this last eight games we’ve had like five different players lead the charge.”

   Lafayette hosts American University Tuesday in an opening-round Patriot League game at Kirby Fieldhouse. American features Parkland graduate Sam Iorio.

   Fourth-seeded Lehigh will host fifth seed Boston for the second time in a month when they play Thursday in Bethlehem at 7 p.m. The Mountain Hawks earned a season split with an 80-75 win here when yet another talented guard, Caleb Bennett, scored 23 points.

   Lehigh has hosted a quarterfinal round game eight times in the past nine seasons.

Janayshia Brown of Catasauqua is receiving D-1 interest as a 6-1 sophomore at Peddie School.

Several Valley athletes find success at prep school programs

 

Blair Academy's boys and girls enter MAPL finals as top seeds

 

 

 

PRINCETON, N.J.--Pete Carril isn't the only Lehigh Valley basketballer to start here and find success elsewhere.

   Carril coached at Easton High and Lafayette College before becoming a coaching legend at Princeton with over 500 victories.

   At Saturday's Middle Atlantic Prep School semifinals at the Hun School in Princeton, several Valley products put their games on display.

 

   Janayshia Brown had played the AAU circuit before she started middle school in Catasauqua.

   Her dad Marcus drove her to Harlem, N.Y., for four-hour workouts each weekend day. She found athletes equally committed to improving and willing to invest their sweat equity.

   At smaller schools in the Lehigh Valley (and some bigger ones, too), standout athletes often find themselves struggling to find … well … themselves. Another like them. Another just as committed.

   Brown became frustrated without a kindred athlete or student. The girl who received her first Division I interest letter in sixth grade decided to follow the serious road once she found that it didn’t have to be an environment of apathetic teenagers so common these days.

   In smaller schools, many girls play two or three sports. Sometimes the basketball team is comprised of two or three basketball-first athletes. Of those, maybe one or two commits full-out to basketball from March through September.

   Brown--now a 6-foot-1 sophomore at the Peddie School in New Jersey receiving interest from schools like Clemson of the ACC, Purdue of the Big Ten, and Penn of the Ivy League--went to a prep school showcase in sixth grade. Her godfather, Dave Hanni, had ties with prep programs and sought a match.

   Janayshia’s father Marcus had played for Dave Lutz at Easton, starting for the varsity in his freshman year. He wanted her to attend his alma mater.

   “I really wanted to go somewhere where I would be pushed athletically and academically,” Janayshia said. Finding both of those was difficult.

   Today she will play in the Middle Atlantic Prep School championship with Peddie against Blair Academy after her team eliminated the Hill School.

   Yes, that same Peddie that Nazareth wide receiver Jahan Dotson had attended for his junior year. Janayshia started on the varsity as a freshman and is now all-MAPL, averaging around 13 points per game.

   She’s surrounded herself with driven classmates from all over the world. It’s cool to learn; it’s expected and even fashionable to work hard.

   “We have a lot of people trying to play sports in college,” she said. “We have people from all over the world.”

   The Peddie football team had 12 players with scholarship offers. Many played on the basketball team that lost to Blair Academy in the boys semifinal Saturday night, 79-66.

   That game went back and forth until the Bucs broke the game open in the final five minutes at the Hun School to overcome 15 three-pointers by Peddie.

   Said Coach Joe Mantegna, who’s making his 17th finals appearance in 19 years, “I think our depth really wears people down. I told our guys that when you have four scholarship players coming off the bench, that really wears people down.”

   Last year Peddie won the title with Jahan Dotson before he returned to Nazareth.

   Teams that stockpile the most top-tier players win out. Blair’s Henry Mayen is one of the four off the bench to help out in 2018. He’s an Australian Blair found through the Luol Deng camps abroad.

   Blair (21-3) also has 5-10 junior guard Dirk Daniels from Phillipsburg and the Bucs girls (16-2) have 5-9 freshman guard Olivia Miles from P-burg. The P-burg area has lost lots of premier athletes in the past decade, many to Bethlehem Catholic.

   Blair’s girls have won the last seven MAPL titles. 

   Noah DeHond, who played at Peddie last year, now is on Clemson’s football roster, listed as a 6-6, 310-pound offensive lineman. Peddie’s structure dictates Janayshia will study from 8:30-11 every night.
   “We don’t have much free time,” she says.

   There’s time enough to challenge her mind and her body, and to satiate her will to improve. In this day of apathy and half-commitments, she’s found a place from which to launch.

   “I want to get my MBA someday,” she said. “Once I got here I see what else is out there, what else is possible.”

   She knows it can happen at a public school, to some degree. Her cousin, Easton standout wrestler Jordan Oliver, accomplished his athletic dreams through the local public school.

   Maia Lockhardt came from Liberty to the Hill School in Pottstown. She reclassified her junior year, giving her two years at the school where she now starts at at shooting guard, averaging around 10 points per game. She and Pennsburg’s Bridget Mayza play for the Rams’ girls team. Mayza came to Hill as a freshman four years ago and now starts as a senior at point guard.

   Tess Cray came from Bethlehem to Pottstown, too. She’s a freshman who backs up Lockhardt.

   Lockhardt suffered a serious injury her junior year at Liberty and wanted to reclassify and not lose that year.

   This weekend Hill lost in the semifinals to Peddie to drop to 8-9. Blair topped Hun in the semifinals and then beat Peddie for the title on Sunday.

   Hill's boys entered Sunday's championship game against Blair at 15-6.

  

   On the boys side for Hill, senior Kevin Cummings from Coopersburg is listed as a 6-1 tri-captain. The ex-Southern Lehigh shooting guard didn’t leave the Center Valley school as much as jump at the opportunities provided by Hill.

   “There was just more and more of everything at Hill,” he said. “It was a great opportunity. Plus I get to see a higher level of basketball here.”

   A standout soccer and lacrosse athlete, Cummings was being recruited by schools for lacrosse, but ACL tears in his knee at midseason in the fall slowed the interest.

   Last year played sporadically for the basketball team, which pounded the Hun School 74-43 on Saturday night to reach the boys championship game today. The Rams feature 6-5 shooting guard Chase Audige, who will likely attend William & Mary. He scored 15 points in three quarters against Hun.

   Seven-foot center Seth Maxwell (5 points) from Abington Heights took the option for a post-grad year to develop his inside game.

   The Dorsey brothers, Caleb and Gabe, combined for 33 points and nine three-pointers Saturday.

 

BLAIR FOOTBALL STAR SET FOR PENN STATE

 

   Blair Academy defensive end Jayson Oweh settled on Penn State, helping the Nittany Lions land the fourth-best class in the nation.

   Oweh has spoken with Dotson and Harrisburg High product Micah Parsons, an all-American defensive end.

   Oweh, at 6-foot-7, 230 pouinds, plans to shift to linebacker.

   He said he started leaning toward Ohio State, but that Penn State won out. Another Big Ten school, Michigan, got involved too late. He might have seriously considered the Wolverines had they shown early interest.

   But he loves Penn State. He sees their defense as being potentially “nasty” next year.

Connor Jones drives for two of his 21 points for DeSales.

Wilkes reclaims 

D3 basketball

lead in Freedom

vs. Bulldog men

DeSales women roll as conference playoffs loom

 

 

   The prospects following Thursday’s showdown between MAC Freedom leaders Wilkes and DeSales would change dramatically for both teams by 9:30 p.m.

   Wilkes (16-6, 9-2) won a tight contest 72-67 at Billera Hall to move into sole possession of first place as Marcus Robinson (five three-pointers) and Rob Pecorelli scored 18 points apiece, four above each of their season averages.

   The loser dropped into a second-place tie with Misericordia. DeSales (17-5, 8-3) shifted from a first-place focus to talk of needing a strong final three games just to make the four-team league playoff. Eastern (7-4) and King’s (6-5) remain in the hunt behind Wilkes, DeSales, and Misericordia.

   “We got close but we couldn’t quite get over the hump,” said Bulldogs Coach Scott Coval. “Our team usually gets 18, 19 assists. We had 12 assists and 14 turnovers. Now we have to make sure we make it into the league playoffs.”

   Wilkes pulled ahead in the second half by nine points, but DeSales battled back and cut the margin to two at 64-62. But DeSales couldn’t surmount the “hump.”

   Connor Jones led them with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Center Kweku Dawson-Amoah (7 points) sat out down the stretch with four fouls, moving the versatile Jones into the low block. When Dawson-Amoah left after an offensive foul in transition, out went 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

   In the halfcourt, Wilkes effectively doubled down and forced some turnovers with strips and deflections.

   “I just think we maintained our poise better,” said Wilkes coach Izzi Metz. “Last Saturday down at Manhattanville (a 73-63 loss) I think we got rattled a little bit, and we learned from that. Coming into this game we knew DeSales was going to be ready to go. It was a big game to get first place again. We just had to weather the storm and string together some good possessions. Fortunately, we did that.”

   Robinson, a 1,000-point scorer as a junior, got hot for Wilkes. He canned five of eight from deep and added six rebounds.

   He also helped stake the visitors to a 14-4 lead. DeSales answered that with a 23-6 run for a 27-20 lead. But the Colonels kept coming.

   Robinson also defended Tracy Simsick, who helped DeSales during the first-half run but was held in check after halftime. He still finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

   Ben Pratt provided another second-half boost for DeSales. The Central Catholic product scored five points, picked up a steal and added two assists to Julian Wing late in the game.

   DeSales shot just 56 percent from the three throw line, making 13 of 23 and leaving important points on the table.

   Wilkes won at Billera Hall for the third straight time. Last year the teams split, each winning on the road. The year before that, DeSales swept the regular season but Wilkes won here in the Freedom semifinals.

   The Colonels swept the season series this year after taking the game at Wilkes 72-66 on Jan. 17.

   “Right now our biggest game of the year is Saturday against King’s (3 p.m.),” said 6-foot-5 senior Connor Jones. “We just have to relish the opportunity.”

   Jones went from draining three-pointers to finishing in the mid-post with soft hook shots. Down the stretch, Wilkes doubled on his first dribble and closed down the paint.

   “They’re a really good team,” said Jones. “They shoot the ball well, they defend well, they rebound well. They do everything well, and that’s why they’re a good team. But we’ll be alright.”

   DeSales hopes to bounce back on Saturday. The Bulldogs won at King’s 101-78 on Jan. 24. They finish up at Misericordia—always a tough opponent—and at Delaware Valley.

      

DeSales women rout Wilkes, prep for playoff push

 

   DeSales dominated the women’s game on Thursday, nearly doubling Wilkes’s output behind a strong fastbreak and a severe height advantage.

   Since joining the Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom Division in 1998, DeSales is 42-0 against Wilkes, who don’t list a player 6 feet or taller on their roster.

   The Bulldogs (12-10, 7-4 Freedom Conference) won again on Thursday, 89-46. The Colonels dropped to 4-18, 0-11 after missing all 15 three-point attempts.

   DeSales swept the series after winning 101-36 at Wilkes on Jan. 17.

   On Thursday, 11 Bulldogs scored, led by Bridget Walsh and Kaitlin Kelly with 14 apiece. Kelly, the team’s lone senior healthy and playing, hit four three-pointers. Walsh added 14 rebounds for a double-double.

   Leandra Sterner scored 13 points. Morgan Birmelin had nine points and five assists.

   Bermelin has stuffed the stat box for DeSales this season—second in scoring (10 ppg.), third in rebounding (4.6), first in assists (6.6), and first in steals (4.2). She and Sterner, the junior guards, and Kelly, the senior, are providing leadership in the transition game and with pressure defense.

   DeSales scored 14 seconds into the game and never trailed.

   Gianna Roberts led Wilkes with 10 points and eight rebounds.

   With three games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs find themselves on the bubble to make the MAC Freedom four-team playoff. Coach Fred Richter’s teams have made the league playoffs in all 20 years since joining the Freedom. His teams have made the playoffs in 26 of his 27 seasons overall as head coach.

   “We just need to get in,” he said. “We’ve won it before from the No. 4 or No. 3 seed.”

   DeSales has won the Freedom six times.

   Richter said DeSales has played the teams above them in the standings—FDU-Florham and King’s each at 9-2—tough this season. The beat Florham at home and lost to both on the road by a combined 12 points.

   Manhattanville, Misericordia and DeSales are all tied for third at 7-4. One of them will miss the league playoffs.

   DSU will host King’s (15-8) Saturday at 1 p.m.  They visit Misericordia and Delaware Valley next week to end the regular season.

   King’s beat Misericordia on Thursday night. Coach Fred Richter didn’t even attempt to try and figure out possible scenarios for playoffs, hosting or traveling, etc., based on how they fare in their final three games.

   “I don’t do the math. I’m telling the seniors that there’s a good chance that this is their last game on Saturday at our place,” said Coach Fred Richter. “I tell them all the time, ‘We’ve won championships on the road. Our first championship at Elizabethtown 20-some years ago, on the road. We’ve been the No. 3 or 4 seed and won the championship. We can do that. I wish we were playing for home-court advantage; we’re playing for our lives.”

   

DeSales guard Tracy Simsick shoots for two of his 14 points.
Wichita State players box out, something they do better than anyone in the nation, in a loss at Temple.

 

Wichita State starting over

in new AAC, hoping to ascend

 

 

 

   As kids we played King of the Hill in the yard. By force or cunning, one of us would ascend the anointed hill and lay claim to the throne.

   He who mounted it first earned the right to literally look down on his inferiors. Sometimes he endured a laceration or a left hook on the climb, but the King could ignore the pain.

   Brute and balance were required to ascend.

   If the same boy kept winning, kept climbing, maintaining power, the others looked upon him with reverence. Win too often, however, and a collective ennui ensued, which invariably led to cries for a “new game.”

   In college basketball, Gregg Marshall’s basketball teams have been repeat champions, regular risers in King of the Hill. Fun killers.

   His Winthrop teams won the Big South race or qualified for the NCAA Tournament in eight of nine seasons, finishing 104-24.

   Marshall became respected, admired, then hated. The league became clichéd.

   Most coaches don’t stay at a mid-major that long if they’re having continued success.

   Marshall finally moved on not to a Power Five conference, but to Wichita State in the mid-major Missouri Valley Conference. He started once more at the hill’s base in 2007. The Wheat Shockers finished 11-20.

   Then the climb started anew: 17-17, then 25-10, second place and good enough to make the NIT.

   In 2010-11 they went 29-8 and won the NIT. By March of 2012, they were in the NCAA tournament. By April of 2013, they were in the Final Four.

    From 2009-2017 Wichita State finished no lower than second in the league, claiming the peak five times in the last six seasons. They reached the NCAA Round of 32 in his last five seasons.

   Winning too often, Marshall became bored. From the vantage point of the hilltop, he scanned the horizon for other battles, bigger foes.

   Rather than Lebron his way to the top and sign with a Power-Five program where he could assemble talent like an AAU lord, he tried to lift Wichita up the hill.

   This year the Shockers shifted to the formidable, deep American Athletic Conference. Could Marshall and the Shockers become a Midwestern Gonzaga from there?

   They won early non-league games against Cal, Marquette, Baylor, San Diego State, and Oklahoma State. In the AAC, they handled UConn then thrashed Houston, up by more than 30 points at home.

   But they looked vulnerable in a five-point home loss to Southern Methodist on Jan. 17, and then lost a Houston by 14 in a payback game.

   By this past Thursday, they were 17-4 and ranked 22nd in the nation. The conference change hadn’t hurt that much.

   In warmups at Temple’s Liacouras Center, comparing the Shockers and the Owls, who I’d seen live a few times, didn’t provide much disparity at all. WSU looked stronger, more physical with 6-9, 240-pound Shaq Morris (24 points) inside. Temple was taller, more athletic. The guests in black and yellow had a little more wheat in their step.

   Marshall’s genius must be the difference.

   The Shockers led most of the game, though never by much. An early surprise was the play of sophomore guard Austin Reaves. A deadly three-point sniper, Reaves took the ball to the basket against Temple, too. Connor Frankamp, the senior transfer from Kansas, found himself benched, playing just 10 minutes and scoring 2 points.

   Point guard Landry Shamet, an all-American in some publications, played passively on the perimeter, content to reverse the ball and facilitate. He finished with 12 points, 7 assists.

   Though the guards entered the game with national acclaim, the post players delivered nine, eight, eight, and six rebounds.

   Down the stretch, it was Temple’s guards coming to life. The Owls drove at the Shockers.

   Shizz Alston (12 points), Quinton Rose (19), and Nate Pierre-Louis (11) set a pathway to the basket and to the free throw line.

   When Temple’s defense doubled down on the Shocker big men in the low post, the Shocker guards needed to re-establish themselves. They couldn’t.

   In the end, Marshall drew up a great final three-pointer to give them the victory at the buzzer. Shamet drove to the low block and threw back to the top of the key for the game-winner. It fell short.

   So did the Shockers. In a tougher league that spans from Dallas, Texas, across to Central Fla., up to Connecticut and over to Wichita, Kan., the Shockers might need to start another upward fever chart. Now they’ll have the expanded recruiting base from which to draw.

   The climb looks bigger, as if WSU has been promoted to a higher division against the older kids. But for where they want to reach, it’s the best route available.

   Where did Marshall’s mind reveal itself? Early in the first half Wichita State pressed, sometimes denying the point guard, other times allowing an inbounds pass and retreating, other times trapping the first pass, still others full-out denying and face-guarding. Each press set looked remotely similar.

   The casual observers—me and my friend Steve—couldn’t decipher how the players knew which way to press. Nobody made a call. None of the players signaled. Usually the press set after a made free throw, which would make subtle communication easier, but nothing overt appeared. Perhaps the brief foul lane huddles dictated the press set.

   An obvious example of Marshall's brilliance is the way his team boxes out. Most teams do it occasionally. Some teams' post players do it occasionally. The Shockers do it pretty much every possession for any player inside the paint.

   In the end, Fran Dunphy found the answers to spur his Owls to victory. Offensively, his Owls pushed the ball in transition, hoping for a good shot before the Shockers could set up their stingy half-court defense. That paid off in several layups and short jump shots.

   Defensively, Temple denied ball reversals at the top of the key, which interrupted the Shockers’ flow. Offensively, the Owls abused the non-hedging guests on pick-and-roll drives, and lured them into mismatches by creating switches, often with bigs on guards and vice versa.

   Two of the game’s best coaches exchanged maneuvers. Of course, even the casual fan can oversimplify and reduce the analysis to which team made shots in the clutch, and which more quickly beat a path to loose balls.

   Temple. In overtime. For one night, the Owls earned the right to start a climb. To make the tournament, they’ll probably need to muscle through the conference tournament and rise to the summit. Having legends like Mark Macon back home reminded the Philly fans what can happen here.

   Wichita lost some footing, sliding out of the top 25 but gaining purchase well before a freefall. February will crown someone in the AAC, but there’s much elbowing and shirt-grabbing ahead.

Lehigh freshman James Karnik dunks to give the Mountain Hawks the lead in the second half.
Bucknell's Zach Thomas scores two of his 36 points.

Lehigh completes sweep of Patriot front-runners with

win over Bucknell

 

 

   Two days after upsetting Patriot League No. 2 Boston University at home, Lehigh went one better.

   The Mountain Hawks outlasted Bucknell 92-89 in overtime at Stabler Arena Monday to stave off the first season sweep by the Bison since 2011.

   “We were joking before the Boston game that we hadn’t won two games in a row all season,” said Lehigh forward Pat Andree. “We said we could do it against Boston and Bucknell. And we did. We’re playing really well in February. We always get up for Bucknell.”

   Jordan Cohen posted a career-high 21 points, including six straight free throws in the final minute of overtime.

   “That’s the moment everyone dreams of,” said Cohen. “A full stadium, packed crowd, your own fans cheering behind the basket. I just stepped up and made it. It’s surreal being at home on national television against the top team in the league.”

   Andree, a sophomore, led Lehigh with 24 points, including five of six from three-point range, to go with nine rebounds. Every bit was needed.

   Winning in regulation against Patriot League leader Bucknell (17-9, 11-2) is hard enough. Topping them in the extra five minutes is almost impossible.

   The Bison were 2-0 in overtime wins over Lafayette and Army, holding them to 0-15 shooting from the field.

   Lehigh broke through 62 seconds in with a three-pointer from an unlikely source. Lance Tejada, who’d been out the past two games with a concussion, drained the 21-footer.

   Bucknell tied the game at 79, then Tejada (17 points) hit a corner bomb off an assist by Jordan Cohen to go up 82-79.

   Tejada seemed in sync with his teammates, having twice fed center James Karnik on pick-and-roll plays for layups late in regulation.

   “I just found my rhythm late in the game,” he said. “Anything to help my team. I practice those shots a lot.”

   Bucknell’s Zach Thomas hit two free throws on his way to 36 points. He averages 21 points and nine rebounds per game, both Patriot League highs. The 6-foot-7 senior patiently glides through the lane, pausing as defenders fly past him or become airborne.

   He hit four fadeaways in the paint. His repertoire of stop-start moves sent him to the free throw line 15 times. He made 14.

   But Lehigh found an answer every time.

   Lehigh point guard Kahron Ross scored four straight points to push the hosts ahead 86-81, seemingly in control.

   Thomas and Lehigh’s Jordan Cohen exchanged two free throws each to make it 88-83, then Thomas hit a 3 with 14 seconds left.

   Cohen buried two more free throws, then Bucknell guard Kimbal Mackenzie made it 90-89 with a three-pointer with 11 seconds left. Cohen sank two more free throws to make it 92-89.

  Thomas fired off another straight-away three to tie, but it caromed off the rim.

   The Mountain Hawks improved to 11-13, 6-7. Lehigh employed a passive 2-2-1 press that dropped back into a 2-3 zone for most of the game to combat Bucknell’s size advantage.

   Though Thomas scored 36 points and grabbed 13 boards, he needed four of 10 three-pointers and 15 free throws to get it. He worked against double teams, as did 6-10 teammate Nana Foulland (14, 13) from Berks Catholic.

   Andree helped battle them down low. He played 43 of 45 minutes for Lehigh, making 7 of 10 field goals, 5 of 6 threes, and 5 of 6 free throws while ripping nine boards.

   “I may not be the most athletic out there,” he said, “but I try to use my brain. The rebound that didn’t even stand out was the one I had there at the end. I just have to attack it like that.”

   Five Mountain Hawks hit in double figures. Last game Caleb Bennet stepped up. Monday Cohen, Tejada, Karnik, Andree and Ross each scored 12 points or more.

   Lehigh’s bench outscored Bucknell’s 23-6 in a game where the lead changed hands 23 times. Their recent rise moved them out of the bottom third and into the middle with Army and Navy. Bucknell leads the league with Boston and Colgate in second.

   “I challenged them at halftime,” said Mountain Hawk head coach Brett Reed. “We needed to play a better brand of basketball.”

   Reed was disappointed in some unforced turnovers and ill-advised shots late in the first half that turned an early Lehigh lead into a 40-38 deficit. Really, though, it only played out like that for a five-minute stretch.

   “We’ve had fewer breakdowns as we continue through the year,” he said. “Our energy level has been high. We’ve been able to extend our defense a little, too, which helps with our energy level.”

   Winning helps boost the energy, too, and Lehigh’s picked up two big ones. Lehigh is now 18-2 in its last 20 February games, dating back to 2016.

Lance Tejada ties the game with 27 seconds left in regulation.
Yale's Trey Phills defends on the perimeter wearing his late father's No. 13. He scored 17 points.
Phills defends the other teams' best players.

SURVIVOR SUCCESS STORY

 

 

Yale's Trey Phills makes a great life to honor his late father Bobby

 

 

 

   It had been 18 years since Bobby Phills died after basketball practice with the Charlotte Hornets.

   Twelve days into the new millennium, he’d been racing teammate David Wesley in their Porsches on their way to breakfast at the Original Pancake House, a post-practice tradition they’d developed.

   His car veered into oncoming traffic. Wesley saw it transpire through his rearview mirror. Phills’ car hit an oncoming truck; he died instantly.

   About five months later I met with Wesley to write a Charlotte Magazine piece about him moving forward with his life after experiencing such a tragedy. He lost his best friend, backcourt mate, vacation partner, de facto brother, role model.

   I interviewed Wesley, his then-fiancee, his mother, family, childhood friends. I followed the Hornets through the NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers and Allen Iverson. The complete story required as many relevant voices as I could find.

   “Why don’t you interview his wife Kendall?” Wesley suggested.

   “How do you think she is going to deal with me interviewing her about her husband’s death?” I asked.

   “Obviously it’s a tragedy and she’s hurting,” he said. “But she’s strong. She’s religious and she’s relying on her faith.”

   When I phoned Kendall, she sounded stronger than I’d expected. She credited her faith and told me how special Bobby was. She actually lifted my spirits.

   I thought back to when Len Bias’ mother came to speak at a church in Allentown, Pa. She was so strong in facing the loss of her son after he’d been drafted by the Boston Celtics, relying on her faith and God’s plan. I’d never witnessed anything like it.

   With Kendall, I felt the same reserve of strength.

   “I personally never blamed anyone for my husband’s death,” she said. “I just accept it that God chose Jan. 12 and Bobby happened to be in his car. It’s not my job to question why he took him. I keep myself busy (these days). I established a scholarship (in his name).”

   She targeted bright young children who might not have the means to further their education. She sought the silver lining in the darkest storm cloud.

   Sometimes you can deconstruct the final year of a person’s life and almost intuit that they sensed it coming. That’s how it was with my mom, who as much as told us she wouldn’t be around “forever,” who organized her entire house to simplify her life and make my job as executor much easier, who told my sister to “take care of your brother Brad. He’ll take care of everything else.”

   Who held her grandson Colton, my brother Mike’s son, the week of Mike’s wedding as if she wouldn’t get a second chance (she didn’t). Living across the country from Mike’s San Diego home, Mom recognized the distance in miles and the fading years of her own life.

   Her own mother sat her down to talk about her future when she was 18. She’d never done that before. She late fell down the stairs and never recovered.

   “I think she knew,” my mom said. “She must have. She never spoke to me like that before, about what I wanted to do with my life.”

   Kendall recounted how she and Bobby Phills had witnessed a horrific motorcycle accident in the summer of 1999. A truck hit a motorcycle and a huge flame rose up. The motorcycle driver caught fire.

   “Bobby jumped out of the car and put a sweatshirt on a guy and put the flames out,” Kendall said. “We were the only two people there to witness the accident. On vacation (later) we were just speechless. We were in contact with the family (of the victim) every day. And we would check the progress on him every day.”

  Infection set in. The driver died weeks later.

  Bobby had always wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to help people. Basketball would provide the means to achieve that goal. He nearly saved this man’s life with his rapid reaction.

   “When he saw that accident,” Kendall said, “he realized that life is short. After that, Bobby did a 360. He just started getting his house in order.”

   Bobby pleaded with Wesley not to get a motorcycle. The memory of that accident and those flames brought him to tears.

   He hugged his wife, a basketball player herself who had developed a crush on Bobby since high school in Louisiana, and his children a little tighter.

   Two months before he died, Bobby Phills set up trust funds for his son Trey and his daughter Kerstie, named for an African-American model Kendall had seen in 17 Magazine. Kendall and Bobby began estate planning.

   Family and friends surprised Bobby with a birthday party the December before he died. It allowed him to see fraternity brothers from Southern University that he hadn’t seen in a decade.

   “They were talking about what if the world came to an end,” Kendall said. “Bobby just said, ‘If I died tomorrow, I don’t have any regrets.’”

   He confided in one friend and gave him specific instructions about his death should it happen.

   “We had a huge Christmas. Everything was big in ’99,” said Kendall. “I think he fulfilled his purpose.”

   He lived to be 30.

   “Would you like to talk to Trey?” Kendall asked me months later.

   I really didn’t want to. The last thing I wanted was to ask a sensitive question and bring more pain to a family heaped in it. She handed the little one on the phone.

   “My daddy is with the angels,” he said proudly. I asked him if he was going to be play basketball and be a hero like his dad.

   “Just like my dad in Heaven,” he said.

  

***

 

   Two weeks ago I read about Yale University and a guard named Trey Phills. I searched their roster on the Internet and realized it was the same Trey I’d spoken with years ago, when he was a toddler.

   I targeted Yale’s Feb. 2 game at Princeton to reunite with a boy from the past. We had tangentially shared a tragedy that I’d felt and understood from afar through David Wesley, who I’d come to greatly respect. After writing my magazine piece about Wesley coping with a tragedy, I ran into him again years later at Madison Square Garden when he was coaching at his alma mater, Baylor University.

   He was as gracious as ever, which further bonded me to the people I’d interviewed.

   So Friday night I drove to Princeton to tell Trey just how proud of him I was to see him make a great life for himself, overcoming the death of his father as well as can be expected.

   He wore No. 13, the number his father wore before the Hornets’ retired it. Sister Kerstie does, too, at Florida Gulf Coast.

   At 6-2, Trey looked athletic and lean and serious.

   Already two starting Elis had missed the season due to injury, so Trey, a junior, needed to raise his offensive game. In the first half on Friday, he didn’t score but did contribute five rebounds.

   In the second half, he scored all 17 of his points. He scored three times on reverse layups, athletic maneuverings around drawn post players. Once he finished with his dominant right hand, twice with his left.

   On one play he drove left toward the middle. As a defender took a step toward him, Phills rose up and dunked powerfully with his off hand, the kind of move that appears from nowhere and etches into your memory.

   Each time Princeton scored to take leads, Phills answered, including a key three-point play late.

   He finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.

   Said Yale coach James Jones, “He’s been doing that all month. He’s been playing extremely well going to the basket. I don’t know if he scored in the first half, but he was terrific in the second half going to the basket.”

   His layup had given Yale a 64-61 lead. Near the end of regulation, he blocked a key shot and got a rebound.

   In overtime, his three-point play with 53 seconds left tied the game at 73. Princeton went on to win 76-73 to maintain its 22-game home winning streak against Ivy League foes.

   “I have to give credit to my mom,” he said afterward outside the locker room. “She always pushed academics. You never know when a sport is going to be taken away from you. You have to have a Plan B.”

   Trey excelled at Charlotte Christian School, where Steph Curry, Bobby Jones’ son and others attended. I coached at Providence Day School just down the street for a year when Bobby Jones was the varsity coach at Charlotte Christian. Tommy John was the baseball coach there.

   Steph Curry worked his way to Davidson College just north of Charlotte. Trey worked his way to Yale; Kerstie, one year younger, to Florida Gulf Coast.

   Derick Brewer, a coach at Vance High School, lent time to Trey to help build his confidence, one of several males to step in and provide fatherly advice.

   “When I was in middle school, I was real low on confidence,” said Trey. “We would work out at Peak Fitness from midnight to 5 p.m. and get breakfast. That changed my confidence and my outlook and put me on the right path. And my uncle, Stephen Silas, assistant coach with the Hornets right now. He spent a lot of time in the gym with me. Most recently my uncle’s been in my ear and staying with me.”

 Trey wants to stay involved with basketball, like his father.

  “It’s a fun sport,” he said. “If I can get paid to do that, that would be awesome. If I can get into front offices, on the Yale side of it with management, that would be great. I want to be a people person in the front office.”

   Bobby was like that. Great with people. Capitalizing on his athletics as well as his intelligence. Compassionate. Endearing.

   Trey has honors both fathers on his Twitter account by quoting Matthew 5:16 from the Bible:

 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your

good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

    

 Like Bobby, Trey excels at driving the ball to the basket. He averages 9.2 points per game for the 9-12 Elis. He shoots just 26 percent from three-point range, but his father took a long time to develop that outside touch, too.

   Bobby developed it playing for legendary coach Ben Jobe at Southern University.

   The impact of Bobby’s early death was so profound that it led to the premature retirements of his college and high school coaches. Jobe told Grantland.com that he lost his passion for coaching and almost lost his faith after Phills’ death.

   That could have happened to the surviving Phills family. But it didn’t.

   Trey led me back out to the court after our interview so I could meet Kendall in person. We hugged, and I told her how strong she was back then. What a great job she did with Trey and Kerstie.

   I looked at her for signs. How did she do it? How did Lonise Bias do it? How does anyone?

   And I realized why I needed to see Trey again after 17 years.

 

PRINCETON ASSISTANT STARTED AT DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE

 

   Brett MacConnell is in his fifth year as a Princeton assistant coach after coming over as the director of operations from St. Peter’s College after holding that position there. Before that he coached at Holy Family University. He started out on Casey Stitzel’s DVU staff.

   “It’s been quite a journey. I started at Delaware Valley College right out of college,” he said. “My first two years in the business I got experience in basically everything from recruiting to obviously on the court coaching and all the administrative stuff that goes into basketball coaching.”

   MacConnell breaks down opponents’ tendencies and provides scouting information to Coach Mitch Henderson. Former Villanova star Kerry Kittles is also on staff.

 

YALE INJURIES

 

   Yale is without two of its best players, out with injuries.

   Senior guard Makai Mason, 6-1, hasn’t played all year after breaking his foot. He could return soon as his recovery is going well. College basketball gym rats might remember him from his strong performance against Duke in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

   Jordan Bruner, a 6-9 sophomore forward, hasn’t played since tearing his meniscus.

   Jalen Gabiddon, a 6-5 freshman guard from Harrisburg Academy, scored 2,000 points in high school before playing his senior year at Glenelg Academy in Maryland. He’s yet to see college action after breaking his foot.

   You might remember Devin Thomas from Central Dauphin. Thomas played there when Gabiddon was in middle school. Thomas, a 6-9 Wake Forest graduate, played in Gabiddon’s district, but Gabiddon chose Harrisburg Academy as his high school for its stellar academic reputation.

  

HEWITT SCOUTING FOR CLIPPERS

 

   Paul Hewitt worked the game for the LA Clippers. The former Siena, Georgia Tech and George Mason coach used to present at the Moravian College basketball clinic.

 

 

 

 

LAFAYETTE 93

 

COLGATE .  83

 

PATRIOT LEAGUE

 

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Lafayette honored the late Stewart Murray (1935-2018), who passed this week. He was a standout Lafayette athlete, Class of '57.

Petrie complements  Klinewski's scoring 

as Lafayette downs hot Colgate, 93-83

 

 

 

..

   Back when the Patriot League season began, Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon showed the frustration of a man assembling a young team and watching the growing process.

.. He remained optimistic because he saw the potential, but he didn’t know who might score consistently other than senior Matt Klinewski.

.. A home loss to rival Lehigh stung. But Wednesday night, against a talented 12-9, 7-3 Colgate squad on a five-game winning streak, the Leopards (6-16, 4-7) found points aplenty

 in a 93-83 victory.

.. Klinewski, averaging 18 points per game, scored just one first-half point. And yet Lafayette led 42-38.

    Freshman Alex Petrie has become a reliable scorer at 14.3 points per game (17.9 in league games), giving the Leopards a formidable one-two punch. The Virginia native was a 2,000-point scorer at St. Christopher’s High School and committed to Lafayette before his senior year.

   It didn’t hurt that his twin brother Skyler later chose Muhlenberg College for baseball and to study pre-med.

   “We knew we wanted to be somewhere near each other,” said Alex. “He found the perfect school for him. It just so happened that it was 25 minutes away.”

   O’Hanlon quipped that while Skyler wants to be an MD, Alex might become Dr. J. Alex has had the confidence to score against anyone “probably since eighth grade. He’s got good strength, he’s got good size for a guard (6-3). He’s savvy. He can score at all three levels,” O’Hanlon said. “Three-pointers, pull-ups, and he can get to the basket.”

   In Saturday’s loss at Holy Cross, Petrie set the school record for points by a rookie with 29.

   Petrie (14.3 ppg.) leads Patriot League freshman in scoring, slightly ahead of Parkland’s Sam Iorio at American and Colgate’s Jordan Burns.

   Burns landed awkwardly in the second half and needed to be carried off the Kirby Fieldhouse court. He did not return.

   Every time Colgate made a run, trimming the deficit to five or six points, Lafayette responded with a big three-pointer by Kyle Stout, or another by Stephens, or another from the corner by Petrie, or another out front by Klinewski.

   Lafayette led by as many as 15 after halftime. Colgate cut it to 5 with 5:16 remaining before Stout canned his clutch three.

   Lafayette made 14 of 29 from distance for 48 percent. They assisted on 20 of their 31 baskets. Always quick with ball reversals, Lafayette punctuated them with points on Wednesday.

   “We got off to a good start and we didn’t run into those long stretches where we didn’t score,” said O’Hanlon. “We had a number of people step up.”

   Petrie canned four three-pointers in five attempts and led the Leopards with 23 points.  He added seven rebounds during his birthday week.

   Klinewski scored nine points in the first 3:32 to start the second half en route to a 20-point night.

   “It’s great to see all our hard work paying off,” he said.

   In all, five Leopards hit for double figures. Junior center Paulius Zalys had 13, senior point guard Eric Stafford a career-high 12 points and seven assists, and freshman reserve E.J. Stephens 12 points in 14 minutes.

   And don't think Petrie was selfish. Just because he's not certain of his future like his MD brother, he does believe in the Petrie dish. He had three assists against Colgate.

    Will Rayman led the Red Raiders with 20 points, but he battled foul trouble. Bradley University transfer Jordan Swopshire added 19.

 

Bethlehem native Rick Callahan strolls out to coach Monmouth in the rivalry game at Rider.

New Jersey college

rivals meet at Rider

in crowded house

 

Broncs move to top of MAAC standings, 92-85

 

   Competition in Rider University’s Alumni Gymnasium feels like an adolescent living room battle where you push the coaches to the side and play nerf football.

   Both sets of side bleachers hug the court, about a dozen rows deep. Tonight, they’re filled for a New Jersey rivalry battle against Monmouth and coach King Rice, a North Carolina product who played for Dean Smith.

   Behind the baskets there’s enough room for cheerleaders to back up against the wall at one end, and just enough for press tables at the other. The giant TV screen over one basket makes it feel like movie night for the neighborhood.

   Tunnels of hallways lead in and out of the gym, like those that carry visitors to some hidden chamber in a gothic castle. With a capacity of 1,650 fans, the gym fills quickly and the volume rises just as fast.

   You don’t think of Rider with a long tradition of basketball, but right out in the hallway, on the stamps of plaques for hall of famers, one honors legendary college coach Clair Bee, a double threat as a coach and writer of youth basketball books. We like writer/coach combinations.

   Also an accounting professor, Bee founded Rider athletics in 1929 before he went on to lead Long Island University to unbeaten seasons in 1936 and 1939. He won NIT titles in 1939 and 1941, during WWII.

   He returned to Rider from 1928-31 and went 53-8. The rough rider on top of a bucking bronco logo was also introduced by Bee.

   The Broncs didn’t start playing in Alumni Gym until 1958. During halftime of Monday’s game, the university just down the street from Princeton honored what seemed like every athlete on campus. Next fall, that will be Southern Lehigh point guard Amanda Mobley standing among the athletes.

   Playing in enclosed quarters, with a raised roof center like an upside down hot dog wrapper, Rider hemmed in the Monmouth offense. The physical defense choked off post passes with tall perimeter defenders. They forced 15 turnovers in the first half as they took a 46-33 lead.

   With fans standing in the first row, abutting the sideline, visiting players get the same treatment the Quarry Crew gives to visitors to Bangor.

   Elephantine hanging pendants appear to push the roof down, dangling in the path of any three-quarter court heave not sent from the middle of the court.

   Confining maroon and black paint creates the illusion of suffocating, collapsing walls. The only dominant white paint you’ll find is on the ceiling, but those hanging lollipop-shaped pendants threaten to jab any vertical escapees.

   When the band starts banging the drums for the Seminole chant, the boom reverberates in your chest.

.. A clear home-court advantage.

.. Rice brought Lehigh Valley native Rick Callahan, an assistant coach, and a team with a losing record to Lawrenceville for the first time in years. The generosity of the fans and other Rider administrators alarmed him. Not as much of a threat, he spent the pre-game glad-handing the hosts.

.. Monmouth fixed the unforced errors of the first half and started working the ball inside. Post-ups turned into points, which opened the perimeter for uncontested threes, which in turn opened up driving lanes. The Hawks pulled to within four.

   Each time they seemed set to pull even, Rider’s talented guards made plays. Stevie Jordan would drive for some of his nine points, or dish for some of his six assists, often to shooting guard Jordan Allen.

   Allen canned seven three-pointers for a game-high 26 points. Dimencio Vaughn, who was also recruited by Monmouth, drained three and finished with 15 points.

   Council Rock product Ben Luber assists the Broncs’ coaching staff, working with guards.

   As Rider’s guards repeatedly penetrated the Hawks’ man defense, Rice deployed the occasional two-three zone.

   “When teams go zone, it’s like Why?” said Allen. “Why? We have a lot of shooters on our team, and everybody can knock down shots when they’re supposed to.”

   The answer to why was because the Broncs’ quickness couldn’t be contained. The 2-3 was plan B. But plan B, each time deployed, resulted in an immediate open three-pointer, the first two going in.

   Said Coach Kevin Baggett, “In my six years across the board, we’ve had a lot of guys who could really shoot it. We’ve had a lot of guys who could play a multitude of positions. That really makes our offense dynamic.”

   In some sense, Rider outscored Monmouth in the 92-85 victory that pushed the Broncs to 16-7, 9-2 in the MAAC. They won all five games in the recent 12-day stretch, legitimizing their one-point win at Penn State back in December.

   Monmouth, who couldn’t feed the post or penetrate the paint on balance in the first half, started passing inside when it mounted its comeback. Diago Quinn scored nine points and Zac Tillman five.

   That opened shots for Deion Hammond (17 points, two threes). It opened lanes for Austin Tilghman (18 points) drives. And it reinvigorated Ray Salnave (19 points), who had scored 13 first-half points to keep the Hawks afloat but started slow in the second half.

   The Hawks (7-14, 3-6) made several runs but fell short playing another game without leading scorer Micah Seaborn (15 points per game). Without him they aren’t the caliber of the past two teams that posted a combined 55-15 record and won two MAAC titles.

   But he’ll be back. He’s another player both head coaches—great friends who meet up on the road for the Final Four every year—spent time recruiting.

   Baggett said he was awaiting word from Seaborn when he finally had to go with the sure thing and accept another player in that slot. Monmouth won out. When he returns, he’ll add more punch to the mix and the Hawks could make another MAAC tournament run at season’s end.

   “In hindsight maybe I should have waited,” he said.

   Two teams in each other’s back yards—50 miles apart—met in one’s living room for another rivalry game. Rider moved to the top of the MAAC, slightly ahead of Canisius, Niagara and Iona after Canisius and Iona lost Monday night.

Former Allen High star Tyrese Martin won game MVP for his school with 31 points.

Martin the Magnificent

In return to Valley, ex-Allen star goes toe to toe with nation's top player Reddish

 

   Sometimes the performance lives up to the pre-game billing. Sometimes it exceeds it, like on Sunday for the Hoop Group Showcase at Parkland High School.

   Tyrese Martin, in his post-graduate year at Massanutten Military Academy, returned to the Lehigh Valley Sunday to face off against the nation’s top player, Duke-bound Cam Reddish of Westtown.

   Martin played head-up on Reddish most of the game, stifling the 6-8 guard with his defense.  When Reddish scored, it came with Martin closing out and in his face.

   On offense, Martin, a former Allen High standout headed to the University of Rhode Island, scored 31 points on seven three-pointers and five twos, including a baseline dunk where he beat Reddish off the dribble.

   Martin led Massanutten to an 84-82 overtime victory before an appreciative crowd at Parkland High School. The 6-7 wing drained a three with 1:11 remaining to give Massanutten (21-3) a 73-71 lead at the end of regulation to answer a drive by Reddish that had given Westtown the lead.

   Each time Martin scored on or over Reddish, or made him fall, the crowd “ooooooooohhhedd.” When Reddish hit some of his eight three-pointers with Martin draped on him like a limber fruit rollup, Reddish turned to the fans and shooshed them.

   “There were a few of them saying things to me,” he said later.

   Westtown (19-11) outscored the Virginia military school 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but Massanutten won the overtime, 11-9 when Penn-State bound guard Rasir Bolton scored five of his 21. His 27-foot three-pointer with a minute left in overtime broke a tie at 79.

   Martin had left the game briefly when his legs appeared to cramp.  As he walked to the scorer’s table to check back in, the fans cheered for more.

   Both Martin and Reddish earned Most Valuable Player honors. Reddish finished with 32 points, but he needed more shots than Martin to eclipse 30.

   “I thought those were two spectacular teams,” said Westtown coach Seth Berger. “A lot of kids on both teams stepped up.”

   Martin knew the opportunity before him on Sunday—he had the nation’s No. 1 in his backyard. He’d have his former Allen High buddies cheering near his team’s bench. Reddish would have to work for his points.

   “He’s ranked first in the nation,” said Martin, “and I’m not ranked at all. I just wanted to show what I could do. I’ve been waiting for this game since last year (when he finished his Allen career and won the MVP of his Showcase game here).”

   Martin looked stronger with an additional 10-15 pounds of muscle. His shot changed slightly, but the leaning-back jumper remained true through the game.

   When Reddish called for a ball-screen to brush off Martin, Massanutten showed hard on the hedge, giving Reddish no room to turn the corner. To start the second half and the fourth quarter, Westtown ran pick-and-roll plays for a layup and dunk with Reddish pocket-passing to the roller.

   “We knew they were doubling on Cam the whole game,” said Berger.

   Both Reddish and Martin commented on the other hitting “hard shots”.

   Added Martin, “My team said they were going to ride with me (after I came out hot).”

   The only serviceable comparison to a tit-for-tat showdown was the Larry Bird-Dominique Wilkins gem in the 1980s when the Celtics held on to down the Hawks in Game 7.

   “I didn’t know what this felt like (playing at home) for a year,” said Martin. “I had to put on a show.”

   Martin said he’d committed fully to URI before attending Massanutten. He felt he needed a year to develop before going to college.

   Other programs tried to lure him away, many from the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference.

   “Our scouting report was more to watch for their point guard,” said Reddish. “We knew Martin was good, too. He hit a lot of hard shots.”

   Martin said his squad still has sights set on a national championship run among post-grad prep schools. In-state rivals Hargrave Military and Fork Union appear in the top ten. Massanutten has beaten both. They are listed outside the top ten in Best of the Rest, behind Blair Academy.

    For Westtown, Indiana University recruit Jake Forrester and junior Jalen Gaffney each had 16 points. Forrester, a 6-9 forward, drew his third foul before halftime on a moving screen call.

Ryan Young showed off his game against 7-foot Seth Pinkney

Becahi leads defending 5A state champs Archbishop Wood boys for half as Ryan Young thrills

 

   As great as Tyrese Martin played in his return to the Valley, Becahi center Ryan Young showed off his skills too in a 68-55 loss to defending 5A state champion Archbishop Wood, revealing some guard skills few knew he possessed.

   The 6-11 center headed to Northwestern showed a dribble game locals hadn’t seen in wins against Central Catholic and Freedom last week.

   He scored 12 of his 16 points before halftime when the Golden Hawks took a 39-36 lead. Young matched up with 7-foot center Seth Pinkney, a skinny but athletic defensive force looking at Santa Clara or Virginia Commonwealth.

   “I played against Seth before and he’s a great competitor,” said Ryan Young. “But it’s always better for a big man going against someone your own size. There are fewer double teams, too, so it’s more one-on-one. I think I got a little rhythm in the first half.”

   Tyree Pickron led Wood with 16 first-half points and 11 in the first quarter alone on three three-pointers. The Quinnipiac recruit totaled a game-high 20 points in the 68-55 victory.

   Bucknell-bound shooting guard Andrew Funk—an AAU teammate of Young’s—scored 14 points, eight in the third quarter when Wood pulled ahead with a 20-6 burst.

   Justin Paz tied Young for team-high with 16 points for Becahi, including 12 in the second quarter.

 

OTHER GAMES

 

   In the tournament opener, Harrisburg downed Parkland 63-53. In the nightcap Allen outscored Liberty 72-64.

 

INJURED FOR THE SEASON

 

   Salisbury lost its second starter for the season when senior Jack Reichenbach was fouled from behind on a fastbreak in a loss at Palmerton.

   Reichenbach sat in the stands Sunday with a brace on his knee as he goes about rehabilitating to prepare for track and field season.

 

Tyrese Martin releases a jump shot. Courtesy Massanutten Military School.
Martin dunks in a game. Courtesy Massanutten.

Bigger, Badder Martin returns

to Lehigh Valley with full ride

and mission to defend nation's

top player in Cam Reddish

   

   Massanutten Military Academy coach Chad Myers confirmed that Allen High product Tyrese Martin will guard the No. 1 player in the country on Sunday.

   "I always thought he was an excellent defender," said Myers. "He always guards the other team's best player. We switch a lot, so he might not be on him all the time, but he's going to start on him."

   Him is Cam Reddish, Westtown's senior averaging 26 points per game and headed to Duke. With an extra 10-15 pounds of muscle added to his 6-7 frame since last year, Martin can guard on the perimeter and in the low block when called to do so.

   MMA is 20-2 with wins over fellow Virginia powers Fork Union Military Academy and Hargrave Military Academy, both by double digits. In a scrimmage early on, MMA outscored perennial national power Oak Hill Academy by eight.

   Martin remains a key starter. He averages 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He scored 35 points against the Naval Academy JV team and 23 this week in a win in just 19 minutes.

   All at a prep stop where former Kansas star Frank Mason prepped.

   The year of prep school has provided discipline, too, on the Woodstock,Va., about 75 minutes west of Washington D.C.

   Massanutten students rise at 6:15 a.m. for formations. At 6:50 they march to breakfast. Class begins around 8 a.m. Practice runs from 1:30-4 p.m. with study hall to follow from 4:30-6 p.m. After dinner, the players report to the weight room to bulk up and build strength.

   Said Myers, "We lift three to four times a week. We're consistently doing it one style every day. Some teenagers really need that consistency."

   Martin has chiseled his frame to prepare for joining Danny Hurley's University of Rhode Island program next year.

   Tyrese Martin did not return calls to comment on his progress. 

Tyrese Martin and his Massanutten Military School team faces Westtown.

Top-rated player Cam Reddish and Allen product Tyrese Martin highlight Hoop Group Showdown lineup set for Sunday at Parkland High

 

   In 22 years of basketball showcases at Parkland High School, the Hoop Group might not have had as interesting a matchup as the one pitting the nation’s top recruit against Allen High graduate and prep school player Tyrese Martin.

   At 3:50 p.m. on Sunday, Martin will be tested against Westtown’s Cam Reddish (26 points, five rebounds per game), ranked between first and fourth nationally in various polls.  He’s already committed to Duke, as have three other top-ten prospects, including recent commit Zion Williamson from Spartanburg, S.C.

   Westtown is 18-10 against a national schedule. They’re young, and Massanutten isn’t.

   “They’re really talented, they’re big,” said Westtown coach Seth Berger. “They’re a host of veterans unlike us. We’re the underdog. Never played them before. I’ve got a film of them that I’ll watch the next couple of days. They play really, really hard from start to finish.

   “We schedule the toughest schedule we can no matter what impact it has on our record. We haven’t had 10 losses for four or five years.”

   Last year Westtown sent 6-11 center Mo Bamba to Texas and wing Brandon Randolph to Arizona.

   “Eighty percent of our practices is skill development,” said Berger. “When Randolph came to us, he had one offer, and he (wound up going) to Arizona. Bamba was ranked 54th in his class; now he’ll be picked third in the NBA draft.”

   Westtown has senior Cam Reddish, and his brother in the freshman class.

   “Cam Reddish is the hardest worker I’ve ever had,” said Berger. “He came with an incredible amount of ability and skill, and he’s always in the gym working on his game.”

   Martin, wearing No. 1, plays for Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, prepping for next season when he joins Coach Dan Hurley’s University of Rhode Island program. The 6-7 post-grad teams up with Penn State-bound Rasir Bolton and 6-10 African junior Mahamadou Diawara.

   “The last Westtown game we were at, Duke was there,” said Hoop Group’s Eric Kessler. “Assistant coach (Jon) Scheyer and another assistant were there. We do expect there to be D1 coaches for the event at Parkland.”

   Westtown’s Jake Forrester, at 6-9, has committed to Indiana and Pennsylvania native Archie Miller.  He averages 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jalen Gaffney averages 15 points and four assists.

   Doors will open at 11:30, an hour before the opener pitting Parkland (8-8) against Harrisburg (12-7). PIAA 4A power Bethlehem Catholic faces defending 5A state champion Archbishop Wood at 2:10. Westtown and Massanutten play the marquee game at 3:50. And Lehigh Valley fans can satiate their local jones at 5:30 when Allen (9-5) plays Liberty (8-8) in a rematch of Allen’s one-point win earlier this season.

   Cost is $13 for adults and $7 for students. Admission allows access to all four games.

   Hoop Group will also offer online ticket sales. Email tickets@hoopgroup.com to acquire yours early.  

   In the opener, Harrisburg brings a state-renowned program to face the host Trojans. Tony James, a 6-1 senior, scored 40 points in a game already this season.

   Their national No. 1-ranked defensive end, Micah Parsons, started the season with the Cougars basketball squad but has since turned his attention to Penn State where he’ll join James Franklin’s program.

   The second game at 2:10 features a Wood squad loaded with college players against Bethlehem Catholic (15-2).  Becahi features 6-11 center Ryan Young, a Northwestern commit. He’ll try to lure Wood’s Seth Pinkney, a 7-foot undeclared center, away from the paint where Pinkney likes to block shots.

   And the Golden Hawks’ junior guard Justin Paz averages 19 per game.

   Three of Pinkney’s teammates have pledged allegiance to college programs: 6-foot-7 wing Carrington Wallace (Central Connecticut State), 6-foot-3 guard Tyree Pickron  (Quinnipiac) and 6-4 shooting guard Andrew Funk (Bucknell). Last year Wood sent Collin Gillespie to Villanova, but the point guard has battled injuries.

   Though listed as 7-6 on the Internet, Wood has played a national schedule, including an 89-45 loss to Montverde Academy in Florida. Don’t be fooled by their record. Several players return from a roster that won the state title by 33 points last March.

   Allen-Liberty should be a strong cap to the showdown. Liberty guard Alex Serrano, a ringer for Lonzo Ball, averages around 20 points per game. He scored 21 straight points to close a victory back in December.

   In past years, future NBA players showcased their talent at Parkland. This year should be no different.

CCHS at Becahi 

showdown limps

into Friday as both

teams battle losses

 

Game features pre-season favorites

to win the EPC basketball title,

potential state tourney threats

 

 

   Two weeks ago the boys’ basketball teams from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference catholic schools stood atop our rankings without much competition.

   Central Catholic and Bethlehem Catholic were cruising, posting lofty point totals and victory margins. They’d profoundly separated from the pack.

   Hoops fans, speaking in asides, suggested they might need to see that showdown to stay riveted.

   But the world spun wildly last week, its axis compromised. In consecutive nights, Northampton defeated the Vikings convincingly and then the Golden Hawks on a last-second, full-court designed play. Coach Coy Stampone put the ball in star Aidan Ellwood’s hands where he could draw two defenders and dump to Cory Weisenberger for the clinching layup.

   The cement-tough team with two stars had announced itself on the biggest stage. And nobody saw it coming.

   What about the impact on Becahi and Central?

   A speed bump? A blip? A scratch?

   Maybe, but the losses continued.

  Central Catholic forward Kevin Kern injured his ankle. Then Chad Kratzer took a spill at practice. Undeterred, the short-handed Vikings outscored Parkland on Tuesday to maintain equilibrium.

   Bethlehem Catholic almost lost at Freedom on Tuesday night, hanging on 56-51, 11 days after outscoring them 81-76.

   On Tuesday the young Patriots (6-10) pulled to within a point in the final minute. Becahi went back up by three with 20 seconds left, which still gave Freedom a shot at tying the game with a three-pointer. They’d already made eight, including three by top-ranked freshman Jevin Muniz, on the night.

   But the habit of rolling the ball upcourt to save time continued, even when Becahi didn’t drop their defense back, and it resulted in a turnover that iced the game.

   In the past few weeks, Bethlehem Catholic narrowly survived two games against Freedom. That’s Freedom, the team that lost to Quakertown, the team that lost to Saucon Valley.

   Freedom, the team that relies heavily on sophomores Malek and Caleb Mims (combined 25 points) and the freshman Muniz (three treys for nine points). Freedom, the team whose half-court traps and quickness forced turnovers by the Hawks.

   “Their quickness, their pressure, and their physical play (bothered us),” said senior shooter Justin Paz, who’s being recruited by several Patriot League schools among others.

   Clearly, the road bump for the two Eastern Pennsylvania Conference catholic powers has metastasized into a hillock of hurt. Despite hanging on to beat Freedom Tuesday by going inside to their twin-tower Young brothers—6-11 Ryan and 6-8 Kyle. Ryan finished with a game-high 19 points and Kyle had five. When the pesky Patriots inched closer, Becahi went to its high-low game. Why not isolate a 6-11 center on a 6-1 guard?

   When Freedom effectively doubled down in the low post, Ryan Young skip-passed to open shooters.

   “It opens the offense so much when I can attract more than one defender in my area,” said Ryan Young, a Northwestern University commit and LVBR’s top-ranked player in the Class of 2018.

   To start the second half he first assisted to Deandre Gardner in the opposite corner, then to Scott Kuna. Two possessions, six points.

   Junior Justin Paz had kept the team afloat in the first half with 10 of his 13 points, including a long stretch where both Youngs sat out.

   But Becahi knew where to go in the second half when a basket was needed.

   “They’re a very scrappy team and they’re well coached,” Ryan said of Freedom, “but they’re undersized this year. That was a point of emphasis coming out of halftime.”

   Becahi went inside and drew fouls. The Hawks shot 23 free throws, making 15. Freedom canned nine of 10.

   Like their faith-based rivals Central Catholic, the Golden Hawks might have lost a player to injury.

   Kenny Bell turned an ankle in the second half and left McIntyre Gym on crutches.

   Just when the showdown has arrived between CCHS and BCHS this Friday at Bethlehem Catholic, Northampton has vaulted over both to take the top spot in our rankings.

   But the showdown has arrived nonetheless. Friday Central Catholic (15-2) visits Bethlehem Catholic (13-2) in the game local fans have anticipated for over a month.

   Central’s other loss came against Dieruff. Becahi lost to state-ranked Abington by 10.

   The Golden Hawks will then turn around and play defending state champion Archbishop Wood at 2:10 p.m. Sunday in the Hoop Group Lehigh Valley Showcase at Parkland.

Kutztown point guard Ethan Ridgeway drives off a ballscreen as ESU defenders await. He had 32 points but 10 turnovers.

ESU men take

showdown of

PSAC East

scoring kings

 

 

 

 

 

  

   They way East Stroudsburg University’s men’s basketball team opened the season, scoring like a 1970s NBA team, they seemed unstoppable.

.. In their first six games, all wins, they scored at least 99 points each time. In the next nine games, they went 5-3 with a game in the 60s, and two in the 70s—all losses.

.. On Saturday they revved the offense again, scoring 57 points in the first half en route to a 101-95 victory over PSAC East rival Kutztown in a battle of the PSAC’s highest-scoring teams.

.. The Warriors (12-4, 9-3) raced ahead of the Golden Bears (13-3, 9-3) using a 1-2-2 press and physical man-to-man in the half court. The game featured 75 free throws as whistles grounded would-be fastbreaks.

.. In the first five minutes ESU pushed the ball quickly up court even after made baskets. Center Steve Harris made eight of 10 shots for a game-high 25 points to go with 11 rebounds, giving him three straight double-doubles. Three of his field goals were dunks.

   Twice the Warriors beat KU down the court on rim runs for dunks. Forward Kobi Nwandu showed his speed several times, leading to easy baskets.

   Harris, a 6-foot-7 New Jersey product, also two-fisted a put-back dunk over two defenders. ESU rebounded from its toughest loss of the season on Wednesday.

 .. “The West Chester loss really hurt a lot,” said Harris. “We got down a little further than wanted to. This win puts us right back on track.”

.. If you missed their 76-74 loss at West Chester on Wednesday, you probably don’t get Twitter or ESPN. The Warriors went for a breakaway layup that would have tied the game at the buzzer, but West Chester defender Frank Rokins sprinted back and blocked it to save the game. It made ESPN's top-ten plays of the day.

   On Saturday the Warriors played the entire game as if they were being chased, pushing the ball down court with urgency.

   Point guard Jakwan Jones scored 13 points and added a career-high 10 assists. The redshirt junior from Imhotep Charter was also charged with paying extra attention to Kutztown point man Ethan Ridgeway on defense.

   The two slippery guards lead the PSAC in assists. Jones knows Ridgeway’s game from years of battles.

   “We both came in together freshman year,” he said. “Last year playing here he and I were going back and forth. It’s always a good and really competitive game. I just like getting my teammates involved and getting my team going any way I can. If I’m scoring one night, I love it. If it’s getting my teammates involved with assists, I love it. If it’s playing defense and getting stops, I love that, too.”

.. Ridgeway, the Division II national assist leader, was tasked with breaking the Warriors’ ubiquitous press, making him concentrate for 80 feet of hardwood on almost every possession.

   ESU's pressure hoped to wear down the senior who averages 17 points and eight assists.

   On possessions where Ridgeway split traps, his momentum launched him forward on slingshot runs at the rim, often finishing in hurried shots over taller players. Ridgeway led Kutztown with 32 points. He made 11 of 25 shots but turned the ball over 10 times. He played all 40 minutes, never able to take his time against ESU’s press.

   “I’m used to playing a lot of minutes now,” he said. “This is my second year playing a lot of minutes, but it’s different against them. It’s tough when some of my guys are struggling and I have to look to pick up the slack and score more.”

   Jones, too, welcomed the arduous full-court pace. He harkened back to the rigors of his practices at Imhotep which prepared players for 94 feet of sliding, sprinting, and sweating.

   Kutztown leading scorer Anthony Lee had to abandon Ridgeway when the shooting guard picked up his third foul 8:13 into the game. Out went 23 points per game and a penetrate-and-pullup option. The Bears were already without Dan Cuevas—a Stroudsburg High product averaging 16 points per game.

   Pennridge product Max Wagner stepped up with 12 first-half points, but he was lost to foul trouble in the second half. And Dan C

   Nothing comes easy at Koehler Fieldhouse.

   When Kutztown set up its press-break attack, the first obstacle to face was 6-6 forward Kobi Nwandu pressuring the inbounder, ready to trap the first pass. Nwandu, a sophomore from Northeastern York, also showed the quickness of a small forward when he could pick up Bridgeway in the half-court at times.

   Nwandu also made plays on offense. He totaled 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds.

   “Coach Wilson sets us up to win the game,” he said. “I play the four, but at East Stroudsburg the four is more like the three. I play the two to the five. We tried to slow (Ridgeway) down. The press takes his legs out.”

   ESU felt wobbly after a recent slate of games against the top teams from last year. They lost at West Chester, slipped past IUP and Shippensburg and pounded Bloomsburg. They also lost at Loch Haven, making them 4-4 from Dec. 8 to Jan. 17.

   They had fallen behind West Chester (11-1), Kutztown (9-2 before Saturday), and Shippensburg (8-2), placing fourth at 8-3.

   With the league ready to play its second round of divisional games, the Warriors are primed for a run. Also on Saturday Shippensburg upset West Chester, putting those teams in a first-place tie. ESU and Kutztown now are tied for third.

   Saturday revealed a major difference between the teams. Kutztown doesn’t have the depth of scoring ESU does. The Warriors got points from 10 players in the first half alone.

   Shooters Marc Rodriguez and Nick Giordino (14 points) showed the touch to spread the court with three-pointers. Each made two. The team converted eight of 17.

   Josh Williams was active inside with nine points. Second-chance shots often led to free throws. ESU made 31 of 45. Kutztown made 21 of 30.

   Lee’s stat line looks like normal—21 points, two off his average—but his absence gave ESU room to build an early lead. The Warriors led 51-31 before KU rallied to close the half within 10.

   Kutztown last led 4-3 after layups by Wagner and Ridgeway. East Stroudsburg went on a 14-2 run to break open the game.

   The Warriors have won nine of 12 in the rivalry and five of the last six here.

   Kutztown’s loss ended a five-game winning streak since their loss to West Chester and spoiled Coach Bernie Driscoll’s shot at his 300th career victory.

Colgate cut off drives for Lehigh guards like Kahron Ross (1).

Another slow start hamstrings Lehigh  against Colgate, 76-72

 

  

   Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, using one of his many axioms for life, admonished, “If you don’t have time to do something right the first time, what makes you think you’ll have time to do it over?”

   Such is the mantra for Lehigh men’s basketball lately.

   For the second time in three home games, the Mountain Hawks (8-10) started slowly, digging an almost insurmountable hole. Against Holy Cross they trailed 12-0 and 19-3 before rallying for an 83-77 victory.

   The lesson about starting with energy and urgency didn’t take. On Wednesday against Colgate in a battle of fourth-place, 8-9 Patriot League teams, Lehigh once again came out sluggish.

   Colgate jumped ahead 11-2 and 40-14 and even 50-22 with 10 three-pointers in 21 attempts.

   Lehigh ended the half with a 10-0 run—seven points from Kyle Leufroy--to trim the margin to 50-32.

   Coach Brett Reed wasn’t getting any inside scoring from his post players, though freshman stretch-four Pat Andree led the Hawks with 11 of his team-high 24 points.

   The Raiders choked the paint. They blocked five shots, scored 16 points off turnovers, and outscored Lehigh 13-4 on second-chance points.

   Reed started the second half with four guards and Andree playing the five.

   “We wanted to go to a quicker lineup to provide us a defensive spark,” said Reed. “Be able to use a little more team speed. But in addition, we were struggling a little bit not moving the basketball. Colgate did an excellent job staying in front of our ball-handlers.”

   Colgate repeatedly jump switched when Lehigh set high ball screens, which stifled ball-handlers before they could gain momentum. Going to four guards spread the floor more for Lehigh, however.

   The plan worked, as Lehigh became the aggressor. Reed switched to four-out and five-out offensive sets to draw Colgate’s post defenders to the perimeter and give room for the four guards to drive.

   Said Jordan Cohen, the fourth guard who most benefits from the strategy, “I think it allows us to be more mobile and push the ball a little bit, and be more active on defense. It lets us play a different style of basketball. Being down at halftime by almost 30, that just can’t happen. It’s something we need to figure out. We realized we had to do something about it or it would open up even more.”

   Lance Tejada’s three-pointer 4:28 into the second half pulled Lehigh to within 12, 55-43. Colgate pushed the margin back to 17 on a Jordan Burns three-pointer and layup by Will Rayman. Andree canned a three-pointer with 7:38 remaining to pull Lehigh to within 64-56.

   “I think when I play the five it helps me,” said Andree. “It creates easy opportunities for me. We bring their five out and it opens lanes for the guards, too.”

   Burns (team-high 18 points) responded with another three. The San Antonio native drained a 25-foot shot from beyond the top of the key.

   Lehigh tactically employed a 1-2-2 press and three-quarter court man-to-man. Jordan Cohen, Kyle Leufroy, Kahron Ross and Lance Tejada deflected passes, tipped balls loose, and rebounded, igniting transition.

   Down 72-62, Lehigh’s Andree swished a three with 2:48 trimmed to make it 72-65. Kyle Leufroy drove for a layup and canned the free throw. 72-68.

   Colgate put the ball in senior point guard Sean O’Brien’s hands. The Penn Charter product made a right-handed layup from the left side, but Andree made one of his own. 74-70, 1:27 remaining.

   When Ross hit a 17-foot pull-up J with 21 seconds left, Lehigh was within a basket, 74-72. Maybe they didn’t need to learn the lesson of coming out energized. They were about to score another comeback victory at Stabler Arena. No deficit too great to erase.

   But Sean O’Brien made two free throws with 10 seconds left for a 76-72 cushion. The Mountain Hawks’ desperate final shots came up short.

   Lehigh outrebounded the visitors by seven. And after being buried under Colgate’s 10 first-half three-pointers, Lehigh canned seven of 11 in the second half.

   They simply ran out of time. Subconsciously they might have thought they could merely dial up the formula from the win over Holy Cross and repeat the result. But they did not have enough time to do it over, to rewrite the script after a sluggish prologue.

   How well Wednesday’s lesson stuck will be determined in Lehigh’s next league game. The Mountain Hawks take on the United States Army at West Point Saturday at 2 p.m. Early fight will be required.

 

MATT RYAN CONNECTIONS

 

   Colgate assistant coach Matt McGarvey played at Ursinus College, graduating in 2006. A crafty point-guard, he often fed Dennis Stanton, the nation’s leading scorer. But if you ignored McGarvey, he’d drive and score, too. And once he got going, he was unstoppable.

   Stanton was the Mid-Atlantic player of the year in 2004. He came back to coach at his alma mater but has since opened up a business.

   McGarvey did likewise.

   He had graduated from Penn Charter High School where he teamed up on the football field with quarterback Matt Ryan, who returned to Philadelphia last week to try to beat the Eagles with the Atlanta Falcons.

   “I was rooting for Matt,” said McGarvey. “And I was rooting for the Eagles, too.”

   McGarvey minimized his effectiveness as a senior slot receiver when Ryan was a junior.

   “I caught one touchdown pass from him,” he said. “And there were no yards after the catch. It was probably a one-year touchdown. I caught it then fell down.”

   McGarvey recruited point guard Sean O’Brien, another Charter alumnus, to Colgate.

   O’Brien, a hero on Wednesday for the Raiders, had played high school basketball with Matt Ryan’s cousins, the McGlincheys and the McCains. Mike McGlinchey plays football at Notre Dame. Jake and Pat played Division III football.

   McGlinchey is a 6-7, 291-pound tackle.

   McGarvey joined former Temple assistant Matt Langel’s program seven years ago. He’d assisted Kevin Small at Ursinus after graduating from the Grizzlies’ program.

  

MICHAEL JORDAN LIVES ON!
 

   In addition to Lehigh’s Jordan Cohen, three other Jordans played at Stabler on Wednesday. Colgate’s Jordan Swopshire, Jordan Burns, and Jordan Robertson. They combined for 41 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and four steals. They made 15 of 31 field goals but only 8 of 16 free throws.

   At halftime, when the youth league athletes took the court, Lehigh’s sound crew played the theme from Jordan’s Space Jam movie.

   How does Colgate cope with such confusion, having three key players share the same first name?

    “We have some nicknames—Swop, J-Rob and JB,” said senior point guard Sean O’Brien. “We figure it out.”

   Swopshire might wound familiar. Yes, he transferred from Bradley University. But it goes deeper. His older brother Jared played for Rick Pitino at Louisville and even won a national title. He later played at Northwestern in the Big 10 while he attended graduate school.

A large crowd took in the game in Pennsburg.

Perkiomen records historic victory

over Blair Academy

 

Freshman transfer TItus Wilkins scores eight points early for budding Panthers

 

  

 

 

   The Perkiomen School recorded perhaps its biggest basketball victory in the school’s 142 years, a 52-49 thriller over Blair Academy Sunday.

   The Panthers (13-3) needed to survive two three-point attempts by the Bucs in the final seconds to hold on and snap Blair’s 12-game winning streak.

   Said Blair coach Joe Mantegna, “I don’t think any Blair team’s won 12 games in a row like this one just did. We’re doing well. We’ll come back here again. This was a great atmosphere today.”

   You know Blair. That same Blair team that produced NBA veterans Luol Deng, Charlie Villanueva, and Royal Ivey. That same program that just spent $30,000 on state-of-the-art locker rooms.

   Blair (12-2) led 46-38 after three quarters after Colgate recruit Tucker Richardson, a 6-foot-5 point guard, drained a three-pointer.

   But Perkiomen owned the final quarter, outscoring the guests 14-3 using a physical man-to-man defense that turned steals into transition layups.

   On offense, 6-6 forward Nick Guadarrama came alive for seven fourth-quarter points. His three-pointer tied the game at 47, then his put-back with 4:06 remaining gave the hosts the lead for good at 49-47.

   Each team missed the front ends of one-and-ones, then Panthers’ point guard Reggie James hit one of two for a 50-47 edge.

   Blair sharpshooter Gabriel Ravetz, a Big Apple native who canned three first-quarter three-pointers before fighting foul trouble, committed his fifth foul with 2:30 to go, still with nine points. The physical game was juxtaposed with many touch fouls inside.

   “To be honest we always play much more physical than that,” said Mantegna. “Today we weren’t allowed to. The game is played at a much more physical level in Jersey. We always have to adjust when we come to PA, but that’s not why we lost the game.”

   Richardson pulled Blair to within one (50-49) on a driving layup with 2:07 to go, finishing with a team-high 10 points.

   And when Blair’s Jordan Dingle drove to the basket the Bucs’ next possession, he looked to be in position to finish with a layup. But Perkiomen point guard Reggie James rotated over and emphatically swatted the shot.

   Perkiomen senior wing KJ Rhodes canned two free throws for a 52-49 cushion. Blair missed two three-pointers—the last one short off the rim in the closing seconds—in their attempt to pull even. Blair had made seven three-pointers to that point in the game.

   After the buzzer, the crowd roared as the Panthers rushed the court.

   “I’ve only been here two years,” said winning coach Tom Baudinet, “but this is the by far the biggest win in my two years.”

   Notre Dame Green Pond transfer Titus Wilkins, who has reclassified as a freshman this season, scored eight first-half points as Perkiomen fought to keep Blair close. Six Panthers combined to drain seven three-pointers in the first two quarters when the teams tied at 30.

   At that point a Perkiomen student quipped, “We’ve already made more three-pointers than we did all of last year.”

   Newbies like Wilkins have helped elevate the roster.

   “Early in the year Titus was kind of getting the feel for pace of the play at this level,” said Baudinet, whose older brother played for Mantegna at Blair. “The last three games he’s been really good. Today was his best game of the year. Really in the first quarter when we were kind of out of whack, he was the one who kept us in the game … made a couple shots … got to the rim. He played great.”

   Wilkins has added muscle to his wiry 6-foot-4 frame. He is keeping up with the talented upperclassmen.

   James led the Panthers with 12 points. Rhodes and Guadarrama had 10 apiece, followed by Wilkins’ eight.

   “I knew I had to be better on and off the court,” said Wilkins. “Perkiomen was a good move for me. I’m glad I made it.”

   Wilkins often plays the three, but sees himself as a two guard, though he feels he needs to develop his skills at the one. For a freshman, the confusion can be ironed out over time. He has plenty.

   Playing in a league with prep athletes, many who are post-graduates, Wilkins will face elite athletes. Blair forward Jayson Oweh stands 6-7, 238 pounds. He’ll play defensive end for Penn State, though he’s only completed two years of organized football.

   Shooting guard Ravetz has sights set on Wesleyan.

   Both teams entered Sunday with losses only against New England prep teams. Blair lost a close one (62-58) to McDuffie, ranked in the top ten for prep schools in the nation, before Thanksgiving.

   Perkiomen improved to 7-0 at home. And when you watched their charged bench root for the Panthers, you noticed their best player sprouting toward the ceiling.

   Ousmane Diop, a 6-9 center from Africa, isn’t playing after injuring his knee in October. He’d been offered by mid-major Division I teams before getting hurt.

   But Sunday wasn’t about individuals. It was two teams, two prep schools, volleying back and forth for four quarters.

   Perkiomen and Blair plan to play every year, alternating sites. In short: get used to games like the fans witnessed on Sunday.

Aiden Ellwood brings up the ball in front of the Northampton bench Friday against Stroudsburg. Ellwood finished with 27 points.

Northampton makes plays

in overtime to down S-burg

 

Seniors K-Kids Ellwood, Weisenberger score 50

of team's 55 total points,

top Mounties 55-52 in OT

 

 

   Cory Weisenberger, the “other guy” in Northampton’s starting lineup after star Aiden Ellwood, stepped up with the game in doubt Friday at Pete Schneider Gymnasium.

   With Ellwood being hounded by Stroudsburg’s defense through the fourth quarter and overtime, Weisenberger went from the second option to the “go-to guy.”

   In the fourth quarter Ellwood made a driving layup to pull Northampton (8-3) to within 44-43 with 1:12 remaining. Stroudsburg missed two front ends of one-and-one free throws, giving Northampton the ball back with 29 seconds remaining.

   Weisenberger crossed over his defender—eliciting And-One whoops and shouts from the home crowd—then, with his defender on the ground, calmly stepped to the three-point line and buried the shot with 20 seconds remaining to complete the highlight.

   Northampton led 46-44.

   Saveon Jackson, the Mounties’ guard who had missed late free throws but kept giving his team life with defensive steals, put in a rebound of a blocked shot with two seconds left to tie the game at 46.

   In overtime, Weisenberger hit another three-pointer with 2:22 remaining for a 49-46 lead.

   “I’m like the second (guy on my team),” he said. “I love the three-pointer. That’s my favorite spot. We had to make some clutch threes and clutch layups tonight.

   “This was my best game of the season.”

   Stroudsburg pulled even 1:11 later when Tyler Henry hit a fade-away 15-footer. Weisenberger missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Ellwood showed he, too, could play the “other guy” role on the Konkrete Kids’ next possession.

   On a missed shot from the corner by a teammate, Ellwood caught the rebound under the basket and made the layup with 37 seconds left for a 51-49 lead.

   He wasn’t the shooter on the play, but he turned a rebound into a go-ahead bucket. It capped Ellwood’s scoring at 27 points.

   Northampton missed another one-and-one front end with 21 seconds left, but Weisenberger canned four straight free throws thereafter, giving the hosts a 55-49 cushion with 14 seconds remaining.

   Stroudsburg hit a three-pointer in the closing seconds for a 55-52 final.

   Only three players scored for Northampton: Ellwood (27), Weisenberg (23) and Zachary Gula (5). Only two scored after the first quarter—the go-to guy, and the other guy.

   Seven players scored for the Mounties (4-6, 3-4). Tyler Henry had 15 while also playing stifling defense on Ellwood and trapping ball-handlers. Center Collin Brady scored 13, but only three after halftime.

   Stroudsburg made just 5 of 14 free throws, including all three front ends of one-and-ones in the second half.

   But give the Mounties credit. After falling behind 18-6 after one quarter and 28-17 at half, they rallied to tie the game at 33 heading into the fourth.

   Henry’s three pulled them to within 33-31, then Jackson’s layup tied the game. They took their first lead when Brady scored inside to start the second half.

   Northampton outscored Stroudsburg 9-6 in overtime, with Weisenberger scoring seven.

   The Konkrete-Kids made eight three-pointers Friday, seven by Ellwood and Weisenberger. Ellwood scored seven above his season average; Weisenberger eight above his.

   Stroudsburg’s Henry and Jackson came in averaging a combined 32 points per night but combined for 22 on Friday.      

Catty's Isaiah Graves breaks down Bangor defender Bernard Davis en route to 26 points.

WHAT MAKES A PLAYER 'SPECIAL'?

 

HOW DO YOU DEFINE WHO HAS 'IT'?

 

Catty guard Isaiah Graves uses his speed, quickness to change defenses and games

 

 

 

 

   Sports call-in-show hosts have been overusing a certain animal description in their broadcasts.

   And its new meaning is the opposite of the old.

   A goat in sports used to symbolize someone who blew the game, who choked under pressure. That person who fumbled at the goal line when he could have given his team victory. That person who missed two foul shots at the end when one make would have tied it.

   These days a goat is celebrated—capitalized even! Is Tom Brady the NFL’s GOAT? Who should we proclaim the NBA’s GOAT, Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

   These GOATS, with the grandest connotations, stand for Greatest Of All Time. And arguments persist over which criteria best evaluates who’s best.

   Number of titles? Records set? Style? Popularity?

   Let’s dial that back a notch. For our purposes, let’s examine what makes a player merely “special” in basketball? (anointing the GOAT can be too taxing when comparing different eras.)

   Do they need to average at least 20 points per game?

   Do they need to set records?

   Does their team need to win a championship?

   Do they need to be incomparable, so special that others aspire to be like them, not the other way around?

   Do they need to have that “it” factor, which nobody can rightly measure or explain anyway?

   Tuesday night I drove to Bangor to see Catasauqua guard Isaiah Graves. When I coached against him a few years ago, and he was a freshman playing junior varsity, he penetrated past our team at will.

   My team featured talented, quick athletes. It wasn’t the fault of my players.

   Graves was the quickest driver I’d faced in person. We pressured him full court, hoping to make him give up the ball when we trapped him. But he drove right through before traps could be set.

   So we tried to shrink the court. We sank back into a soft man-to-man and told everyone else to help on him when he drove, alert in the gaps. He still got to the rim, when he wasn’t passing to teammates for easy baskets.

   We tried 2-3 and 3-2 zones, even a 1-3-1. Everything I’d known to work in the past failed against Graves.

   When we did manage to slow him temporarily, he unselfishly passed to open shooters, who buried three-pointers. My team played really well that game, but we lost. I couldn’t help but feel proud of my boys and throw my hands up Graves’ quickness.

   And it didn’t help that his teammate, a 6-3 forward, was hitting fade-away three-pointers on the way to 25 points.

   I told Catasauqua varsity coach Eric Snyder, “If your varsity has five kids better than those two, you should win the state title.”

   The other player was playing JV, it turns out, to boost his confidence. He’d been a varsity regular but needed some success. He surely found it that night.

   Tuesday at Bangor, I went to see if Graves—now a 6-foot senior on an 8-2 team--could post another high-30s night, this time against the Colonial League’s reigning dynasty, Bangor.

   Bangor played its Syracuse 2-3 zone. They paid extra attention to Graves, cheating toward his side and helping when he started to drive.

   He hit a couple of threes, which is like cheating when you possess his slippery quickness. He remained almost too patient, I thought. Of course, I was there to see him, not a balanced offense.

   He kept Catty close by scoring over half of its first-half points (15 of 29). A late Slaters rally pushed Bangor ahead 36-29. Rough Riders’ guard Jaylen Green had 12, including three three-pointers, two off of Graves assists.

   Cullen bond had the only other basket.

   Bangor’s scoring broke down in a way polar opposite to Catty’s. Their big men scored, and the scoresheet looked balanced.

   Forward Bernard Davis had nine. Forwards Tony and Isaiah Jones had seven apiece as the forwards drove from the high post and put-back misses as Bangor dominated the boards against the smaller, centerless Roughies.

   Guards Bo Meyers (six) and Ben Holland (four) shot from the perimeter.

   In the second quarter Bangor switched to man to man out of a timeout. Graves got the ball at the top of the key and promptly drove for a layup. He canned three layups on drives that ended with a dipsy-do bank.

   It took two seconds for him to break down Bangor’s man defense by himself.

   After the game I asked him if there was anybody that he played who could guard him.

   “No,” he said, even sounding modest. “Nobody can guard me in this league.”

   Bangor put Bernard Davis, an athletic transfer, on him at times. A few drives Davis managed to stay in front of Graves, but largely because the court was shrinking with help nearby. Still, Graves scored, ending with 26 of Catty’s points in a 69-55 loss. Green had 18. The rest of the team had nine.

   Graves had 10 field goals, three of them three-pointers.

   He’s scored over 25 points eight times this year; four times he’s eclipsed 32.

   He averages 27.5 points per game against defenses with 10 eyes watching. He entered the year ranked seventh in the Lehigh Valley Basketball Rankings. Casting a revote might elevate him to the top five.

   How do you determine if a player is special?

   My number one requirement: if the other team needs to change its entire defense and gameplan to handle you, you’re special.

   If most teams are forced to play you box-and-one or some other junk defense, you’re special.    

   If that doesn’t happen with some regularity, you’re not. That simple.

   Special players are so talented that even when they don’t score, they find teammates for open shots. Graves does that, maybe to a fault.

   Bangor even played some triangle-and-two.

   “I’ve been struggling the whole season with my outside shot,” said Graves. “(Monday) night I was working on my three-point shot and mid-range too. It was falling today. I was kind of surprised.”

   How special is a guard who doesn’t shoot well from range and still posts 30-point, multi-assist nights? If he ever gets his outside consistent, he’ll be unguardable special.

   The most special player I’ve seen locally in the last quarter century was Antoine Hubbard at Salisbury. Anybody who can score 63 points—30 in the fourth quarter—to win a close game is special. He was special just in the way he broke presses by himself.

   Special players control games and determine who wins and who loses. Not many know that feeling or that level of control.

   Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) schools are recruiting Graves. Even John Calipari’s former school, Clarion.

   Catty coaches flatly called him the Colonial League’s best player. And not because he recorded point No. 1,000 this winter.

   A fan walking out called him the “best player on the court” in summing up his talent.

   Graves is special. Even for Catty. We’ll never call him the Roughies’ GOAT because a guy named Larry Miller played there and went on to success at North Carolina and the ABA.

   Miller’s so GOAT he combs his hair into sweaters. His jump shots fleeced the net.

  

COLLEGE 'SPECIAL'

 

   The “special” player in college now is Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, though West Virginia made him look mortal with their full-court press and double teams.

   They hounded young. At three-quarter court, they doubled him. He passed ahead, and that teammate passed ahead again. Sooner post players got the ball within five feet of the basket, but West Virginia repeatedly blocked their shots.

   If not, Young might have had double-digit assists. And his team might have won. Instead, he labored the entire time he was in the game. And still score 29 points.

   What makes him special? The Mountaineers devised their whole defense to stop him. The arena where the crowd once cheered Jerry West now jeered Young whenever he got the ball.

   Young leads the nation in scoring and assists. He’s electric and unselfish. He controls games.

   Watch him split two defenders on a drive, then scoop the layup off the wrong foot. Watch him look off a defender in transition and two-hand bounce pass for a dunk.

   Watch him two-hand chest pass 50 feet effortlessly to an open teammate for a three-pointer. He sees and thinks the game two steps ahead of the rest. That’s special.

   When Pearl Washington played at Syracuse in the 1980s, he wasn’t the best player in the Big East. Not with Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and others around. But he was so special in the way he played showman on fastbreaks, the way he broke down shutdown defenders so easily.

   You can’t compare anyone to him since, in 30 years.

   That’s special.

Holy Cross went up 12-0 and 19-3 running its Princeton offense. Lehigh went zone and went on to win.

Tejada, four guards lead Lehigh past Holy Cross after slow start at Stabler

 

 

 

 

 

   After nearly a month away from games at Stabler Arena, Lehigh finally, finally got to slip under the familiar hardwood covers against a young Holy Cross team.

   And promptly fell behind 12-0.

   Lehigh turned the ball over on its first three shotless possessions. They maneuvered gingerly, as if the ice outside had clung to their hightops.

   They trailed 19-3 just 7:05 into the game. And, ironically, it was the 3-11 Crusaders trying to overcome a six-hour bus ride to the Lehigh Valley, their second this week.

   But Lehigh responded with a 15-3 run. Point guard Kahron Ross canned eight points and Pat Andree five as the Mountain Hawks (7-7, 2-1) started to generate offense off of steals and, in the halfcourt, kick-outs off of drives.

   They connected on 58 percent of three-pointers. They shot 57 percent from the field overall.

   “I thought Pat Andree had a lot of clean opportunities tonight, and it was set up by a lot of our guard play,” said Lehigh coach Brett Reed. “And the way he was able to space the floor, it opened up the paint--our guards were creating—and then he had a lot of clean and rhythm and uncontested looks. When he can get his feet set, get squared up, like he did tonight, usually good things will happen for us. Him knocking down those shots allowed us to erase a sizeable lead very, very quickly.”

   Lehigh led 45-40 at halftime as Andree scored 14 points, 12 on three-pointers against the Crusaders’ 3-2, 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones.

   The four playmaking guards for Lehigh—Ross, Kyle Leufroy, Lance Tejada and Jordan Cohen—started penetrating and dissecting Coach Bill Carmody’s defense.

   When Holy Cross doubled down on center James Karnik, someone spotted up in a corner. When a guard split the top of the zone, another set his feet behind the arc.

   “I think they were trapping down in the post, which was leaving a lot (of room) for the corner replace,” said Andree, the all-time leading scorer at Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey who led Lehigh with 36 minutes Friday. “Zone always gives you an opportunity to get good shots.”

   Tejada scored 25 points, 19 after halftime. The East Carolina transfer made six of eight three-pointers on a night he finished one short of his career high.

   He missed the loss at Navy earlier in the week with a sore ankle.

   The difference with Tejada versus without was incredible. Imagine if he had become eligible at Lehigh a year earlier. The four guards would have teamed up to surround all-league center Tim Kempton, who graduated.

   “We talk about that all the time,” said Ross. “That would have been a crazy matchup.”

   “Tim and I joke about that,” said Tejada. “He said, ‘You had to (become eligible) the year after I left.’ But it paid off, and I got better.”

   It almost happened. Tejada, from New York but who played scholastically in Florida, was recruited by Lehigh. He had a visit scheduled to Bethlehem but took the ECU visit first. Then he committed to Coach Jeff Lebo, a former Pennsylvania state champion at Carlisle, rendering a visit to Lehigh unnecessary.

   After two years in Greenville, he played sparingly, averaging 4.2 points per game.

   “When I announced my transfer,” he said, “Lehigh was the first one to contact me.”

   Last year Tejada confided in Kempton since the two lived near each other. He received advice on the league, the Lehigh way, the Lehigh Valley … but while Tejada practiced with the team, he couldn’t suit up until this season.

   “When he’s aggressive out there,” said Ross, “it makes the team so much better.”

   While not a freshman, Tejada is a newcomer. And his impact immediate. He leads the team in scoring at almost 15 ppg.

   Andree finished with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Coach Reed also liked the sophomore’s seven rebounds, critical for an offense that plays four guards and needs to lend aid underneath to the freshman Karnik.

   Ross (12), Leufroy (11), and Cohen (10) all scored in double figures. Cohen had seven rebounds, Leufroy six.

   Combined the foursome totaled 58 points, 19 rebounds, 14 assists and six steals.

   Of the four guards, three consider themselves point guards—Ross, Cohen and Tejada. That equates to three players who know how to lead, to penetrate, to score, and involve teammates.

   “We’re still figuring out our roles every day,” said Tejada. “I’m a point guard. That’s what most people don’t realize. My favorite player is Jason Kidd. That tells you it all right there. I’m not a two (shooting guard) by any means, but I feel I can score pretty well from the two, too.”

   With a four-year starter in Ross running the offense in the league’s all-time assist leader, Tejada knows his place.

 

HOLY COMEBACK!  

 

   Holy Cross didn’t die. Coach Carmody, who had longtime success at Princeton and Northwestern and took the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament two years ago, is trying to mesh a seniorless roster.

   Holy Cross has five juniors, three sophomores, and six freshmen. Center Jehyve Floyd, a junior left-hander with a soft baby hook shot, scored 16 points and had eight rebounds.

   It felt like more, but he played just 29 of 40 minutes.

    “Floyd has got to work on his stamina,” Carmody said. “He gets it there but he’s too tired to even try. But every time he tries he scores. He’s shooting 65%. He hasn’t played a lot of AAU ball, so he’s still learning. But he’s a junior. He competes, but he can’t keep it going.”

   Floyd said it took him two full years to learn the Princeton offense, so you can imagine what his younger teammates are experiencing.

   Freshman shooting guard Austin Butler had 22 points on six three-pointers and dove all over the court. Carmody can build around that.

   Two freshmen start and five play meaningful minutes. Holy Cross shot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent on threes.

   “Two things,” said Carmody. “We haven’t been able to stop many guards. We can’t keep our bodies in front of them. They went small, which we figured they would. We weren’t able to stop the bounce, and they found Andree. Those guys are veterans, so they can pick and choose who they pass to. But we’re getting better.”

   Lehigh built its second-half lead to 67-51 on a Tejada three-pointer with 11:27 remaining. Coach Carmody’s kids didn’t surrender. A 15-2 run made the score 69-66 with 5:09 left. Floyd contributed three baskets, and three teammates hit treys.

   Lehigh’s four guards scored 10 points to push the lead back to eight, but a layup by Patrick Benzan pulled the Crusaders back to within two, 79-77, with 22 seconds to go.

   Leufroy hit two free throws for Lehigh, then Holy Cross missed a three-pointer. Cohen added two more free throws for the 83-77 final.

 

ASSISTANCE PROVIDED

 

   Kahron Ross, now with 601 career assists, has become Lehigh’s all-time assist leader as well as the Patriot League’s all-time assist leader, passing Holy Cross’s Jave Meade (2004), who had 599 in the loss at Navy. Lehigh point guards take up three of the top four slots all-time in assists for Patriot League players.

   Mackey McKnight (578) ranks third and Marquis Hall (566) fourth.

 

TEJADA DEDICATES PLAY TO LATE GRANDFATHER

 

   Last fall Tejada lost his grandfather Jose Tejada, who had brought a basketball into the delivery room when Lance was born.

   “Every time I play,” said Lance. “I play for him. We were real close. We stayed in the same house. We were real close; that loss was real hard for me, especially my year out of basketball.”

   A former Marine, Jose spent the last dozen years hooked up to a dialysis machine, battling diabetes. Yet he remained in Lance’s maturation as a player and as a man.

   “He donated his life to coaching as long as he could,” said Lance. “That’s something I think about every day that nobody knows. I thank him more than anything.”

   Jose Tejada was in his mid-70s.

   In a non-league game against Virginia, Lance Tejada scored 22 points. The Top-20 Cavaliers and Coach Tony Bennett employ a pack-line defense that keeps scores low. Tejada’s 22 prorates to about 30 against anyone else.

   After Friday’s game, his three-point shooting percentage 

Lehigh buried 9 of 16 threes in the first half against Holy Cross. Lance Tejada (right) had two in the first half.
Matt Kachelries (#5 Bloomsburg) defends Ricky Hicks during Wednesday's game at Kutztown.

PSAC Men's Basketball

Kutztown rallies to extend 16-game home streak against Bloomsburg as past PIAA greats shine

 

   Most high school basketball coaches host an annual alumni game where they bring back former greats who helped sustain the program. Players choose sides and “compete” in a pickup game, trash-talking about former glory.

   Watching Division II basketball in the PSAC is basically a nightly alumni game for PIAA state playoff standouts. Scan the rosters for Kutztown and Bloomsburg and you can connect the names with legendary games.

   You remember point guard Ethan Ridgeway. He led Bayard Rustin back against a stalwart Parkland squad in the 2014 state playoffs. He spoiled their magical run almost single-handedly.

.. He had 14 points and 13 assists, mostly after a sloppy start.

.. “Second round of states, I can remember coming down the stretch we might have been up one or two,” he said. “They drew up a nice play, and I happened to recognize it. I got the steal and made the layup and that’s what really changed the momentum around for me, personally, because I was in a funk up that point.

.. “Next possession I came down and hit a three and everything turned around for me from there.”

.. Wednesday Ridgeway started slow again, but became a hero down the stretch again.

   That’s him over there, No. 3, for Kutztown. And his backcourt mate Anthony Lee, No. 23. If you went to the District One Final Four down at Temple or Villanova, you saw his Galloping Ghosts compete against the likes of current Villanova star Mikal Bridges at Great Valley, or former Chester star and current Brooklyn Net Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

   In Wednesday’s 97-92 victory over visiting Bloomsburg, Kutztown rode Lee’s 34 points—tying a career high for the second time this week. Wasn’t he a Division I recruit out of high school?

   “I had Division I teams talking to me my junior year,” the 6-foot-2 guard said, “but I got injured playing football. I broke my tibia. It had been Fairfaild, Monmouth, all those lower D-I schools. Only PSAC schools were after me after that.”

   The Bears’ tallest player, 6-8 freshman Joseph O’Brien, also played at Abington, but he didn’t see time against Bloomsburg on Wednesday night.

   Closer to home, Pennridge product Max Wagner, a 6-foot-8 lefthander, made several big plays down the stretch to help Kutztown extend its home winning streak to 16 games against Bloomsburg at Keystone Arena. The Huskies last won here in 2001.

.. Wagner scored 14 points, two shy of his career high, and added five rebounds, including a put-back of a missed shot by Lee that became a three-point play that turned a 90-89 deficit into a 92-90 lead.

.. “I’m finding open shots because of great passing,” he said. “I’m really happy with the way we’re playing as a team. At Pennridge we spread the ball out pretty well. I scored 1,000 along with Dan Long. I loved it.”

.. Pennridge faced Abington a few times and Emmaus once, losing each game back when they didn’t lose much at all.

   Ridgeway, that clutch point guard, handled matters from there with four straight free throws as part of an 8-8 night, all but erasing the 1 for 7 shooting from the field. Like he did against Parkland in 2014, he rose when called in the clutch after a shaky start.

   Several players contributed key minutes. Stroudsburg High product Dan Cuevas (17.5 ppg) scored 11 and added four rebounds. Josh Townsend, a player from perennial power Imhotep Charter, added seven and three.

   Oenis Medina did not play. The 6-8 center from Reading wasn’t able to showcase his skills for a throng of 25 Reading players, coaches and fans sitting in the stands. They left happy anyway, since Bloomsburg point guard Khary Mauras (9 points, six rebounds, 4 assists) started and impressed for the Huskies.

    When foul trouble sent him to the bench, Lehigh Valley and state playoff fans got a glimpse of freshman Matt Kachelries, a lightning quick point guard from Emmaus. As he and twin David did for the Hornets, Matt filled up the stat sheet: eight points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

.. “I come into the game, try to get my teammates involved, get them open shots,” the backup point guard said. “It’s been a transition to the college game, but I think I’m getting into it. Everyone in college is grown men. It’s not high school anymore.”

   He sparked a run when Mauras went to the bench with four fouls with 9:35 remaining in a tie game. His four-point play with 7:48 remaining broke a 71-71 tie.

   Twice he fed Sam Saxton for back-door layups as the lead swelled to 86-78 with 4:30 remaining.

   But Lee, that Abington Ghost who’d probably be playing one level up had his knee held up, answered with a corner three when Bloomsburg went to a 1-3-1 zone, then another, and soon it was 88-87. A layup by Lee made it 89-88.

   From there, Wagner and Ridgeway (18.5 ppg.) handled matters.

   Bloomsburg also had a host of PIAA names from name schools—Carlisle, Pennsbury, Delaware Valley Charter—and even another local with Freedom’s Nick King. But the 6-5 Huskies couldn’t win their third-straight Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference game.

   Kutztown improved to 9-2. The Bears had lost Saturday at unbeaten league rival West Chester 95-89 by two at PSAC California in November.

   Kutztown prevailed Wednesday night despite shooting for a lower field goal percentage, lower free throw percentage and lower three-point percentage.

.. They outrebounded Bloomsburg by seven, committed four fewer turnovers, and committed eight fewer fouls, perhaps the biggest difference-maker.

.. And in the back of Ridgeway’s memory, he knew the importance of finishing games all the way through. Parkland taught him that.

.. “Their little point guard (Jimmy Hahn) had a desperation heave at the end,” he said. “It looked good and I turned around and it hit off the backboard and it rimmed out, and I was thankful for that.”

… Last year Ridgeway teamed up with former Parkland shooter Austin Beidleman in the backcourt. They talked about the Kachelries brothers and faced one Wednesday.

   “He has great potential to be a first-team all-PSAC guard,” he said. “He has the poise. Once he learns how to create his own shots and get to his spots on the floor on the college level, he’ll be a great point guard.”

 

.. 

Hamilton finishes a transition break against Moravian in the up-and-down contest.

Don't Blink!

Fans who looked away probably missed a basket  or two in Hamilton's 98-94 victory at Moravian College

 

   Hamilton College men’s basketball coach Adam Stockwell said he predicted an over/under total points of 220 heading into Sunday’s game at Moravian College.

   The 9-0 Continentals had eclipsed 90 points six times and 100 twice. Moravian had eclipsed 90 three times and 100 once.

   Hamilton hadn’t lost all year. Moravian hadn’t lost at home in three games.

   While Stockwell’s predication wasn’t realized in the 98-94 decision for Hamilton, the game itself provided a classic for fans who braved the freezing temperatures to watch inside Johnston Hall at the Roosevelt’s 21st Greyhound Classic.

   The Greyhounds pressed all game, forcing 21 turnovers. The Continentals forced 20 themselves, mostly in half-court tip plays as Moravian (9-3) raced upcourt.

   Hamilton used a lineup comprised mostly of players 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 who could all dribble, pass and shoot. When Moravian scored, Hamilton rushed the ball back up the sidelines and shot a layup within three seconds leading to a 22-0 edge in fastbreak points.

    “We don’t turn away those guys who are 6-5 and 6-6,” said Stockwell. “We’ve been fortunate to have really good guys who are long and unselfish. That helps us with what we do schematically.”

   Point guard Tim Doyle, 6-5, scored 25 points, had three assists and three steals before fouling out. Peter Hoffmann, a 6-5 junior forward, had 18 points, 8 rebounds and three steals before fouling out.   

   Down the stretch 6-3 sophomore Kena Gilmour, a lefty, took over the offense with drives and finishes with his left hand. His 23 points were six above his average through nine games.

   Moravian countered with Oneil Holder, a 6-5 junior whose 20 first-half points kept the Hounds to within 52-50 after Hamilton had led 38-28. Holder made seven of eight field goal attempts, mostly on drives and finishes along the baseline and in the paint.

    “I think that was my high for a half,” he said. “We knew it would be a track meet. It was actually a great test for the out-of-season schedule.”

   Imagine unceasing up and down action. A tennis volley of highlights, each pass contested and a fingertip from a steal, each drive a challenged runner banked home, or a dribbler lured into a charging violation.

.. Never settling into a comfort zone, always intent and alert. For an entire game. At both ends.

   Moravian did wear down the visitors, who went to the bench more than usual. But the racehorse tempo wasn’t a shock to either team.

   “We had a game like this earlier this year against Widener,” said Holder. “It kind of stinks because we lost that game, too. We’d score and they’d come right back at us.”

   Moravian took command of the game for a stretch in the second half. They led 72-65 just 5:41 into the second half when Nick Casazza drained one of his three three-pointers. Jimmy Murray’s (24 points) drive game found space as he repeatedly went to the foul line (11 for 13).

.. Moravian found its rhythm and seemed likely to go 2-0 in the tournament.

   Having Holder saddled with foul trouble didn’t hurt at first as his teammates excelled in the drive and dish game as they countered with four- and five-out spread offense, but eventually that athletic post presence was needed. Holder finished with 27 points and 9-for-11 shooting both from the field and from the foul line.

.. At times he played decoy on pick and rolls. With the defense sagging on him, guards found room to penetrate to the middle and score or pass for scores.

   Holder’s final point, a free throw to punctuate a three-point play with 2:14 remaining, gave Moravian its last lead, 93-92.

.. Gilmour scored twice for the Continentals (10-0) to push the lead to 97-94. Of his 24 points, 21 came after halftime.

   “I think this weekend were our two best wins,” said Stockwell. “To come here on the road and beat Lebanon Valley--who’s a strong team with two great players … I think we defended as well as we have all year (on Saturday) … and Moravian just keeps coming at you in waves. I think we did a great job mentally fighting through that, and some guys made some great plays down the stretch.”

.. Imagine that pace, then check the shooting percentages for the game: Hamilton 58%; Moravian 51%. A 40-minute sprint with ongoing conversions.

   Moravian’s speed and quickness shined through. Hamilton’s size made itself known (rebounding edge of 37-22).

   Each team was its best self on New Year’s Eve. Hamilton played 94 feet a little better, however.

   The most telling statistics? The Continentals outscored the Greyhounds 22-0 on fastbreak points and 64-34 in the paint to offset Moravian’s 15-point edge on threes.

   The 9-3 Greyhounds host Susquehanna on Jan. 6.

   The unbeaten Continentals might move into the Division III Top 25 after the 2-0 weekend. They entered play three slots out but beat a strong Moravian team at home and an 8-4 Lebanon Valley team who was seven points from being 10-2.

   After their weekend venture south to Pennsylvania, they’ll return to play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

 

Palmerton's Nate Dougherty form-shoots a free throw at Salisbury.

 

Salisbury holds off Palmerton, late rally, 

56-53 to earn first win

 

   One of Palmerton boys’ basketball coach Ken Termini’s favorite games is Goliath Killer.

   First at Palisades and now at Palmerton, he takes a lowly program and begins reconstruction. Part of the rebuilding includes landmark wins against teams that program hasn’t beaten in a decade or two.

.. Saturday at Salisbury High, Termini hoped his Bombers would break a losing streak against the Falcons that can be traced to 2001. He’d performed that magic against Notre Dame, Wilson, Catasauqua and Northern Lehigh while coaching in Kintnersville and already against Lehighton with Palmerton.

    Now in his second year, his team came out like it wasn’t 100 percent sure it had what it took to win in Allentown. Palmerton struggled containing the 0-8 Falcons’ interior size, which also showed up in transition layups and blocked shots on defense.

   Salisbury, which has played a challenging early schedule, got 22 points from Jack Reichenbach in taking a 30-20 lead to the break. Reichenbach curled in transition layups, dunked, hit threes, and ignited a Falcons team not blessed with the depth and experience of past squads.

   The Falcons built its lead to 16 as Termini tinkered with his lineups and defenses. Palmerton tried different presses, zones, man combinations … until something worked.

   “We finally found something when we went small,” he said. “But I didn’t know if we had enough time to come back.”

   Starting with limiting Reichenbach to two points after halftime, Palmerton rallied from down 40-24.

   Ryan Yacone scored nine of his 11 after intermission. Leading scorer Nate Dougherty kept driving despite being faceguarded and hounded, scoring eight of his 16 after the half. Nine different players scored in the second half, showcasing a deeper Palmerton roster than they’ve had in years.

   Point guard Eric Baumgardt harassed Salisbury’s point guard, eliciting a pair of five-second calls. Halfcourt traps turned over the Falcons. Baumgardt’s steal and layup with 4:45 remaining pulled Palmerton to within 48-45.

   Reichenbach answered with a transition layup. Dougherty scored on a jumper, then Reichenbach fed Oliver Stewart (11 points) for a layup to make it 52-47.

   Uber-athletic, Reichenbach recorded pair of steals but could not convert to extend the lead.

   Baumgardt hit two free throws with 1:10 left to pull within three.

   Falcon point guard Sean Snyder hit two free throws a second later after being fouled 80 feet from the basket. A Palmerton miss and Snyder free throw pushed the margin to 55-49.

   It seemed the Bombers were dead, like they falsely appeared to be in the second half of a huge comeback win over Lehighton on opening night.

   But Seth Young made a layup with 36 seconds left. And another Baumgardt steal led to a putback by Zach Silfies with 15 seconds left.

   Palmerton trailed 55-53.

   They fouled Tommy Sylvester, a starter and defensive stopper who hadn’t scored all night.

   Sylvester canned the second free throw. Reichenbach blocked Dougherty’s corner three in the final seconds to prevent Palmerton from pulling even.

    Salisbury rode its big three—Reichenbach, Stewart and Kahlil Foster (14 points) at both ends. The frontcourt trio also combined for 10 blocked shots.

   Palmerton received an all-in contribution that fell just short.

    “We’re trying to change around a long history of losing,” said Termini. “Of our top nine or 10 guys, six of them are sophomores or freshmen. Our best years are ahead of us.”

   Salisbury finds itself in an unusual situation. The Falcons are relying on JV starters for key varsity minutes. And yet, their JV came up big with a barrage of three-pointers to hold off Palmerton's JV. Same result in the varsity contest.

   Said Termini, “We lost by one at their building last year and by three this year.”

   Jason Weaver’s Falcons improved to 1-8 after roster (graduation) and staff changes. Longtime JV coach Dave Spadt is gone, replaced by a bevy of coaches, from former players to EPC veteran and former Northampton High head coach Ed Ohlson. Friday night they had the answers at home.

   Salisbury returns to league play Jan. 5 against visiting Catasauqua and scintillating scorer Isaiah Graves. Palmerton hosts Bangor on Wednesday as it begins a tough stretch.

   The Falcons are hoping to better resemble their recent past while Palmerton's trying to harken back to decades ago when the Bombers played for titles.

   Each season, each game, gets them closer. 

   Can anyone remember a local coach turning around two of the weakest programs in the Valley in the same decade other than Termini? 

Kyle Stout (24, far left) helps lead Lafayette into battle against rival Lehigh. Though only a sophomore, Stout helps lead his young roster into the future.

Lehigh wins fifth straight against

rival Lafayette in men's basketball

 

..  Not much separates this young Lafayette men's basketball team and their rival, Lehigh.

   The Leopards move the ball well and hunt three-pointers. The Mountain Hawks rotate four tough, fearless guards while they are working on replacing a Patriot League MVP in center Tim Kempton.

   Those differences are obvious.

   So when they met in the league opener Friday on College Hill--with students away for the holidays--they had to generate enough plays to survive the Lehigh Valley's best college hoops rivalry.

   Lehigh (6-6) outdueled Lafayette in a few key areas to snatch the 79-74 victory after trailing by five at halftime.

 

OLD SCHOOL GUARDS VS. NEW-SCHOOL BOMBERS

 

   Lafayette's taller guards posted up Lehigh's smaller, physical guards in the first half, which gave them an 8-1 advantage in fouls drawn.

   Players like 6-foot-6 wing Kyle Stout from Parkland took Lehigh's smaller perimeter plays (5-foot-11 to 6-2) down low. The Hawks' muscled Lafayette to offset the size difference but at a cost.

   "I think we had them in the bonus by the 10-minute mark," said Stout. "We just couldn't sustain it."

   The Pards (2-10) built their biggest lead at 42-32 on a high-low combination from Matt Klinewski to Myles Cherry with 1:02 left in the half.

   Lafayette was using rapid ball reversal and penetrate-and-kick offense to generate three-pointers with the occasional post-up or drive mixed in. When driving guards encountered weak-side help, they either kicked to a teammate stationed outside the three-point line or lofted a floater.

   Their approach was new-school basketball personified where teams like layups and love three-pointers and resort to mid-range options only in emergencies.

   Lafayette's aim from deep was slightly off, canning 6 of 19, including 2 of 3 by Klinewski on his way to a to a game-high 22 points.

   Lehigh closed the half with a three-pointer by Lance Tejada and a layup by point guard Kahron Ross at the buzzer to halve the margin as part of a 17-5 run over both halves.

   In the second half, as Lehigh slowly pulled ahead six minutes in, the Mountain Hawk guards continued to execute old-school playground basketball--penetrating into the paint and scoring off runners, contact finishes, pullups or even new-school step-back Js.

   After Lafayette's Eric Stafford drove for a layup to cut the lead to 72-69 with under two minutes remaining, Lehigh put the ball in Ross's hands as the shot clock counted down. The 5-foot-11 Arkansas native dribbled hard left and rose up, draining a 16-foot jump shot for a 74-69 cushion with 1:29 left.

   After Lafayette's Paulius Zalys finished a three-point play with 1:17 remaining to pull within 74-72, Lehigh went to another veteran guard. This time Kyle Leufroy took a pass on the baseline, dribbled, and stepped-back to create space. The junior canned a 14-foot jumper with 52 seconds remaining for a 76-72 lead. 

   Mid-range madness.

   Coach Brett Reed credited Leufroy's attitude while sitting out for a long stretch.

   "While he was on the bench, his enthusiasm, his support of his teammates, and his energy, were terrific," said Reed. "Had he been on that bench, and had he pouted or not been as engaged, I guarantee you he would not have been able to make that play." 

   Lafayette forced Lehigh into difficult shots late in possessions.

   "At times I thought we played good some really defense and they hit some really tough pullups," said Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon. "There were some tough shots in tough moments."

   A Lehigh senior and a junior guard showcased their mid-range game, demonstrating the pieces of offense Lafayette's largely freshmen/sophomore contingent must continue to develop.

   "Me and most of the guys on the team are always working in the gym," said Ross, the school’s king at doling assists. "We're not just shooting threes and getting to the rim. We're working on our mid-range game as well. It came in handy tonight."

 

OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS OR DEFENSIVE TRANSITION?

 

   Years ago Princeton brazenly confessed to a strategy of put-back indifference; they rarely sent more than one offensive player to rebound a potential missed shot. The Tigers would rather not allow any layups in defensive transition than leave themselves vulnerable to sending two or three players to rebound after their shot attempts.

   On Friday Lehigh managed just two offensive rebounds in the first half, one more than Lafayette. Stout helped by controlling the Leopards’ defensive boards.

… Though Lafayette all but ignored offensive rebounds, Lehigh still managed five points off fast breaks. Lafayette did not score at all on breaks, so in the second half Lehigh recognized their lack of transition and sent a few players after offensive boards.

   Lehigh took its first lead of the second half at 51-49 when an offensive rebound turned in to a jump shot by Pat Andree. Lafayette fought back to within 66-65 with 4:35 remaining. Another Lehigh offensive rebound was then sent back out to Andree again. This time the 6-foot-8 leading scorer in Christian Brothers Academy history buried a three-pointer.

   After not starting the second half, Andree stayed focused and made key plays late. And freshman James Karnik came in and tripled his rebound total from the first half and raised his scoring from six first-half points to nine in the second. The 6-foot-9 forward/center from Canada impersonated Kempton well for a stretch.

   Lafayette opened the second half trying to establish its interior post offense. Lehigh countered by sending a guard to double-team after the first dribble, which forced the Leopards into passes back out to the perimeter. As Lafayette struggled to assert its inside presence, Lehigh ironically found its low-post footing.

   "We knew Karnik was a bull inside and on the boards," said O'Hanlon. "A couple of the extra possessions they had (because of offensive rebounds) were huge for them."

   When Karnik softened the middle, Andree found his rhythm outside with 11 points, including three triples. He also chipped in 11 rebounds for a double-double.

   "We were much more aggressive," said Reed. "We were much more assertive. We were much more attacking in the second half."

   Lehigh owned the offensive glass after halftime with a 7-2 advantage.

   In a battle between evenly-matched rivals, a few differences that played out over short stretches late spelled the difference.

   Lessons learned? Lafayette must find second and third scorers to help Klinewski, whose inside-outside game can scintillate. Freshman reserve guard Justin Jaworski added 11 points and took big shots down the stretch, but he didn’t see the court in the first six minutes.

   When Stout’s in rhythm, he shoots accurately, but Friday was 1 for 7. Lukas Jarrett scored eight when Lafayette went inside, and Paulius had nine down low.

   Point guard Eric Stafford assisted on eight baskets, but he shot 2 for 8 and missed all three triples.

   Coach O’Hanlon continues to see improvement, but with youth the process must play out.

   Lehigh looked more like the veteran team. Five players scored in double figures: Ross (17 points, 5 assists), Karnik (15), guards Leufroy and Lance Tejada (14 each) and Andree 11. Reserve guard Jordan Cohen didn’t shoot well, but he became a fourth guard to penetrate and pressure the defense.

   Until Karnik came alive, the Hawks’ offense was almost entirely perimeter, but a tighter perimeter that began at eight feet and ran out to the three-point line.

    Lafayette leads the all-time series 142-86, but Lehigh has claimed the last five including the last four in Easton.

   The rematch, set for Feb. 24, will reveal how far the Division I programs have come.

 

Players who want the ball should present a target for the passer with their hands extended and ready. Little adjustments make a big difference as you go up levels in competition.

Don't Break Down over Practicing Fundamental Breakdown Drills!

   The other night I heard college basketball announcer Dan Dakich rave about Villanova's ability to pass and catch the basketball.

   Huh?

   The No. 1-ranked team in the country has to worry about pedestrian tasks like passing and catching?

   The best teams perform the basics the best. UCLA's legendary John Wooden practiced the fundamentals over and over until they became habits. His teams won 10 national titles.

   Catch with two hands and two eyes. See the ball into your hands. Pass to a spot--away from the defense. The receiver should be giving the passer a target with his hands.

   West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said the No. 1 factor in whether a shot goes in or not is how accurate the pass is. If a shooter catches a pass behind him or at his ankles, he loses the balance to make the rhythm J.

   When North Carolina State beat Houston for the 1983 national title--as monumenal an upset as there's been--Derek Whittenberg snared a wild pass that was almost intercepted and became a dunk at the other end. Instead, Whittenburg caught the ball, turned, squared up, and shot an airball that teammate Lorenzo Charles dunked at the buzzer to beat Phi Slamma Jamma.

    What was Whittenberg's first thought?

   He thanked God he had played for legendary DeMatha High coach Morgan Wootten. A stickler for fundamentals, Wootten harped his way to mastering the basics until he'd won over 1,000 games. Stabbing that pass with one hand would have resulted in Whittenburg losing the ball, and thus, losing the national title to a dunk by Benny Anders.

   So does your coach make you work on passing drills?

   So fourth grade, right?

   Not exactly.

   Plenty of high school players think they're above doing pivoting drills, too.

   So third grade, right?

   Not really.

   Go to a local college team's practice. DeSales, Muhlenberg, Moravian, Lehigh Lafayette. They work the basics into everything they do.

   Ask any college or pro coach what shortcoming pesters them the most, and they'll likely say footwork. Improper footwork results in poor balance.

   Some coaches believe in a dominant pivot foot (your left if you're right-handed, and the opposite if not). Others believe you should pivot on your inside foot when catching a pass and facing up to the basket to shoot. What percentage of high school players have either "mastered"?

   None.

   Just to become adequate, a player should spend hours upon hours pivoting, squaring up to the basket, shooting with balance, receiving passes with balance.

   Another of UCLA legend John Wooden's favorites: balance. The man who started his basketball lessons by teaching players how to put on their socks didn't miss a trick.

   Want to see a modern player with outstanding footwork and pivotability? Former Duke standout Luke Kennard could pivot off either foot, would pivot in a series whether executing a step-back J, a step-through up-and-under, or a reverse pivot faceup and drive. Plus, he could finish with either hand.

   Kennard isn't a great athlete. But he became an All-American because of his elite footwork. It was like watching a player who was ambidextrous with his hands and his feet.

   And let's look at Villanova. Jay Wright built his program based on being fundamental, tenacious and tough. Watch his players during their summer individual drills. Inside pivot into a shot. Jab series maneuvers. Inside-foot plant, squareup and come to the shooter's stance for a jump shot.

   Watch his current big man, Omari Spellman, a redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-10 first-year college player utilizes the inside pivot Sikma move to square up for a quick baseline jump shot. An easy, almost imperceptible slide of the foot that cleared just enough space to fire an open shot over his defender.

   Like Larry Bird used to say, just clear a little space in the window to shoot and you're set.

   Many of Jay Wright's players start out as hustlers. Through extensive drillwork and fundamentals, they become complete players at both ends. They honor the game by playing the right way.

   Rather than scintillate by being fancy, they merely set up a teammate and score when the situation arises.

   Ever hear of Michael Jordan? Coming out of North Carolina, he could dunk like a remote-controlled helicopter. His signature dunk was to cup the ball between his hand and forearm and slam it from there.

   When he made it to the NBA, he didn't have much of a jump shot. The best way to improve that is to make sure the form is correct, the movement minimized, and repeat until it becomes a habit. He left the NBA as an outstanding outside shooter. Through work, technique and balance.

   Wooden. Wootten. Wright.

   Who thought Darin Hilliard would leave Liberty High and make it to the NBA years later? Who looked at Josh Hart as a Villanova freshman and projected him into a Lakers' uniform four years later? He wasn't an elite scorer at all.

   Who had Great Valley High product Mikal Bridges attracting dozens of NBA scouts during his redshirt junior year on the Main Line?

   These guards/forwards can all pass, catch, shoot and drive. And defend! They're always on balance.

   If you want to improve your game, don't study the Greek Freak and emulate him (unless you possess an unnatural and surreal collection of physical gifts). Watch those who improved through hard work and attention to details.

   Years ago I worked a Villanova camp and heard a chalk talk by Bret Gunning, then an assistant who would later move on to the NBA. We discussed Jim Beilein's offense at West Virginia, a combination of Princeton and his own homecooking.

   Then we discussed how easy was if Villanova scouted an opponent who could only go off the same foot each time he shot a layup.

   Said Gunning, "We'd just slide in there and take a charge if we knew when he was going up."

   Not sure what to practice in your driveway when there's only a little room after you've shoveled off the snow? Why not shoot layups for an hour?

   Boring? Maybe. Beneficial? No question.

   Princeton often runs 20-30 minutes of layup drills for its players. They have to become efficient at scoring on either side of the basket with either hand going off either foot. All you see is the backdoor cut and layup going into the basket.

   Now, if you don't even go off the inside foot on uncontested layups, and your form is unreliable and non-repeatable, master the basic layup first. Master that, then practice scoring on either side of the rim with either hand.

    Master that, and you can practice going off either foot and scoring with your dominant hand. Master that, and you can practice going off either foot and finishing with either hand (that one might be for college players).

   When you shoot, don't spring to the three-point line and launch line-drive rockets. Emulate Villanova. The Wildcats stand right in front of the basket, lift the ball into the fingers of their shooting hand, and practice one-handed shots with perfect rotation, perfect follow-through, and perfect extension. The ball should leave your index and middle fingers last.

   What, so second grade? You learned that long ago?

   Great, have a coach check your form. Does that technique translate at 15 feet? 20?

   Do you merely "know" something, or can you execute it every time? Those willing to practice the basics progress the fastest.

   If you're female, watch UConn and Coach Geno Auriemma. His players wow fans with supreme execution, but all of that ball movement and cutting wouldn't be as impressive if they couldn't finish a possession by draining a driving layup, or canning an open three-pointer.

North Hunterdon outlasts Allen 92-89 as DelSantro matches career-best 30 points

Mike DelSantro

   Late in the North Hunterdon’s 92-89 track meet victory over Allen Sunday at Whitehall High School, referee Frankie DeAngelo came to the scorer’s table and verbalized what everybody was thinking.

 “This is unique. You usually don’t this much up and down,” he said. “Pressing both ends.”

   Allen led 57-41. At halftime. Unique scoring and transition for most non-Golden State games, in fact. Every year the Valley shifts further from the deliberate, half-court approach.

   Using a scrambling, double-teaming press mixed with a 2-2-1 look, the Lions rallied and took the lead for good with 4:30 remaining on Michael DelSantro’s three-pointer, 81-78. DelSantro added a three-point play for an 84-78 lead.

   Allen pulled to within 91-89 when Bless Jones (19 points) converted a layup with 12 seconds remaining.

   North Hunterdon’s Wes Reinagel missed two free throws with 6.9 seconds left, but DelSantro rebounded the second and was fouled with 4.1 seconds left. Allen managed a shot from half court by Isaiah Frison that would have tied the game, but the ball rolled around the rim and out at the buzzer.

   “We’ve had a lot of big wins before,” said NG Coach Kyle Rehrig, “but this was our biggest  comeback. We were down 21.”

   Rehrig credits “the system”, an all-in, everyone-runs, everyone-shoots approach popularized by Grinnell College in Iowa and utilized briefly by Muhlenberg women’s coach Ron Rohn.

   Wholesale five-player substitutions weren’t on display like Grinnell made famous, making  adjustments more resemble hockey “shifts,” but players came and went by twos and ones.

   Said DelSantro, “I think we wore them down.”

   The Lions (1-1) had lost their opener Friday at east coast power Gil St. Bernard, 97-48. Sunday they played without starting center Paul Woolhouse, a Carnegie Mellon recruit, and his backup, as well as their backup point guard. Sickness and injury left them with a guard-oriented attack.

   Hunterdon made 11 three-pointers. DeSanto matched his career-high with 30 points, which equaled his season-ending game last year. Rienagel added 25 but injured his right ankle getting fouled in the final seconds.

Allen fires a final three-pointers that rims in and out against North Hunterdon.
Hustling players from Liberty and Pocono Mountain West scrum for a loose ball.
Hazleton's 6-8 center Josh Samec (00) and their power forward Da'mir Faison bring a strong inside/out 1-2 punch.

Polished, balanced top five Hazleton handles reloading Parkland, 70-46

   Hazleton showed the kind of balance throughout the lineup that a 6A state challenger needs. And Coach Mike Joseph likes something else he sees for the first time in years.

   “We have a couple of football guys,” he said, smiling. “They bring something different. We don’t get many football players in basketball. We have two.”

   Ranked in the state’s top five, Hazleton has the kind of balance and toughness that could allow them to make a run, but that’s down the road.

   Sunday they defeated Parkland 70-46, jumping ahead 15-5 early with three triples.

   The Trojans (2-2) cut the lead to 31-28 as Jake Bartholomew (11 points) got hot from outside and Hazleton developed foul trouble. In the second half, though, the Cougars (2-0) went inside to 6-foot-8 center Josh Samec, 6-5 forward Da’mir Faison, and even 6-1 guard Joey Grula when the matchup dictated.

   Samec also played on the perimeter, canning consecutive threes in the third quarter when Hazelton took command. Joseph said Samec’s being courted by Division II programs. Guard Jeff Planutis (13 points, two dunks) might find a home in a Division I or D-II program.

.. Joseph relishes the depth Adrian Otero gives him. Otero brings instant toughness and leadership, traits the University of Maine liked when they offered him a football scholarship. And Ryan “Sparky” Wolk passed for 2,000 yards for the Cougars’ football team and knows how to lead his peers.

   “I just really like what they give us,” said Joseph, who’s always had the intensity of a Mike Singletary.

   Parkland was led by sophomore Logan Rindock’s 17 points. Coach Andy Stephens rotated various combinations in search of a solid rotation.

   “It usually takes 10 games or so,” he said. “We usually play about 10 guys for half the season until we see what works, then we reduce that down to a seven- or eight-man rotation. This might take even longer, but I was happy with the way we competed. Hazelton beat us by 20 last season and we went on to have a pretty good year. This is the team they’ve been waiting for.”

   Stephens started a 6-foot-9 center, but with Samec roaming the three-point line and showcasing a decent handle, Stephens opted for reserves.

.. The team Parkland was waiting for graduated the past two seasons, and though still talented and long, they are a collection of players without an identity right now.

   This week they’ll visit Whitehall and Emmaus. Their 6-9 center will find his likeness in Emmaus’ Zach Sabol.

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