On the hoops scene with journalist/coach Bradley A. Huebner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
Plenty of high school players think they're above doing pivoting drills, too.
So third grade, right?
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"?
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.
Becahi girls stay unbeaten
with 49-43 victory at Easton as teams look to develop post play
Two teams that won championships last winter met in Easton Friday, each trying to replace graduated post players and rekindle that magic.
Last year Bethlehem Catholic rode the journey to District 11 4A title and a state crown. Easton won the District 11 6A title.
Both teams are trying to replace the absence of six-footers who clogged the paint on defense and scored inside on offense. Each team has returned a half-dozen guards who can play meaningful minutes, however.
The styles might change, but both teams hope the end result will match last winter’s.
Bethlehem Catholic 5-foot-10 sophomore Abigail Brown made her bid to patrol the Golden Hawks middle with 11 points and six rebounds in the 49-43 victory. She made three of six free throws and drove to the basket, putting Easton center Leanna Deegan in foul trouble for most of the third quarter when Becahi (4-0) went on a 12-0.
.. That spell with both Deegan and guard Kyla Smith sidelined in foul trouble turned a four-point game into a 16-point margin. Becahi also alternated between man-to-man, a three-quarter court 1-3-1 and a 3-2 zone.
.. “Neila Luma was one of the best rebounders I’ve ever seen,” Brown said of Becahi’s graduated all-state center. “She was kind of a role model to me. But I like to shoot from outside, too.”
Luma, a 6-foot forward, now plays at George Washington University. Her high game as a freshman has been 16 points against Wisconsin. She had 11 rebounds against Syracuse.
Abigail’s outside game more resembles departed stretch four Tessa Zamolyi.
.. Once Deegan landed in foul trouble, Easton’s center sank back into the lane, daring Brown to hit an outside shot. Brown drained three 19-footers from inside the top of the key.
“I’m so proud of her,” said older sister Hope Brown, a senior. “I’m really proud of how much she improved and showed herself. We all weren’t having a great game, but she stepped up and showed how capable she is.”
Even in the final minutes when Becahi stalled--burning a full minute in one possession thanks in part to two rebounds off missed free throws and a five-out keepaway—Abigail handled the ball as much as any Golden Hawk, including the three seniors.
.. “We weren’t too happy about her handling the ball that much,” said Hope, “but she did what she needed to do.”
.. Senior guard Natalie Rhine added 11 points to match Brown for team-high. The three-year varsity guard joins Hope (seven points, six rebounds) in the backcourt along with versatile point-forward Taliyah Medina, an all-state player who blended too often on Friday and finished with four points. Not to worry.
.. “With all the games we’ve won over the years,” said Rhine, “we’ve always had someone step up when we needed it. Today it was our sophomore Abby Brown.”
Easton got a huge lift from Jahnel Oliver, a senior guard who led both teams with 16 points. She buried four three-pointers and scored all her points in the game’s final 10 minutes to turn a potential rout into a typical EPC showdown. The Red Rovers (2-2) cut the lead to five with 2:31 remaining on a steal and layup by Oliver.
.. But Rhine went 2-2 at the line and Hope Brown 4-4 in the final 16 seconds to keep Easton from getting closer.
.. In her bid to fill the post and the void left by graduated 6-foot-3 center Mackenzie Miers, now at Boston University, Deegan totaled eight points despite missing time. Mikayla Roach had seven points, Hannah Doerner six on a pair of treys. Doerner injured her knee at the start of last season and missed most of the year.
.. “I was happy with our effort,” said Easton coach Dave Lutz. “That’s what we always look at first, and I wasn’t disappointed. We competed the whole game. Leeanna’s one of the best players in our league, so losing her hurt us.”
Easton scored 25 points through three quarters. They rallied for 18 in the fourth when back at full strength and playing fearlessly.
.. Deegan’s third-quarter bench time due to foul trouble really hampered the offense. Playing the high post in a four-out set, she back screens and flashes, catches and drives, catches and shoots, and ball screens and rolls. With her out, the fluidity flat-lined.
And Easton lost its defensive post presence. In the past three years, the Rovers had three or four big bodies to put into the game when needed. Now it’s a guard-oriented lineup, evidenced by the Rovers’ seven three-pointers.
Several members of Easton’s 2016-17 squad were back in the gym watching their former teammates. Olivia George, the heart and soul of that team, attends Penn State but is not playing basketball anymore.
“I’m rowing now,” she said.
Cat Lutz, Easton coach Dave’s daughter, is working toward her Ph.D. in sports psychology at Essex University in England while continuing to play basketball.
“I thought last year was my last year of playing basketball,” she said. “But they wanted me back, and they said they’d pay for me to get my Ph.D.”
GOD BLESS HIM!
ALLEN USES SPEED, KNOWLEDGE TO OUTLAST EASTON, 56-48
Allen 56, Easton 48
Allen coach Doug Snyder said his 2017-18 squad will have to learn from each game and review the lessons repeatedly.
Only one player—Bless Jones—started even half the games last year when the Canaries scintillated the Lehigh Valley with dunks and dominance.
“I knew they wanted to play,” said Snyder, “but I told them to look at who was playing ahead of them.”
Though this Allen team starts four seniors, most saw little action in meaningful game time last year. The term "inexperienced senior" isn't always an oxymoron.
So Sunday’s second-half collapse in a 92-89 loss to North Hunterdon—the most points Allen had surrendered locally since yielding 89 in a loss at Northampton over a decade ago—wasn’t wholly unexpected.
“I said to the team at practice, “What did we learn from the last game?” Snyder recounted.
“Play all 32 minutes,” one player said.
“Finish the game,” said Snyder.
How soon basketball provided the opportunity to apply the lesson. Allen led at halftime at Easton Tuesday, 27-21.
The margin swelled to nine, 41-32, after three quarters. And the Canaries (3-2) found themselves back in that familiar position, trying to maintain a lead, and their poise.
When Easton pulled to within 41-40 on three-pointers by Yasyn Davila and Jared Jacobs around a pull-up jumper by Jake Herres, Allen needed an answer.
And so began a series of transition layups fueled by determination and memory. Bless Jones (16 points) made the first. Sophomore A’Quelle Adderley the second with 3:55 remaining. Then Jones added three more layups, one off an assist by Adderley, the player Snyder calls his “baby Zack Randolph” because of his southpaw status, his manly frame, and his penchant to pass.
When their lead dwindled to a point, Allen responded with all the right plays.
Easton managed just another three by Jacobs. Allen called time with 1:36 remaining, secure with a 51-43 cushion.
From the 6:40 mark to the 1:05 mark, Easton tallied just one field goal. By the time high-scoring sophomore Ryan Boylan (23 points) added a three-pointer and a layup in the final minutes, the game was decided.
Jones, the younger brother to 2016-17 Canary star Talek Williams, had demonstrated a lesson learned. Late in Sunday’s loss to North Hunterdon, Jones had received a technical foul for briefly reacting to contact with an opponent.
“I felt bad about that,” said Jones. “The kid had wrapped my legs, so I turned around to push him off. I made up for it tonight, definitely.”
Tuesday he let his speed and transition buckets talk.
Adderley added 12 points, Tyreek Bell 11.
Easton lost despite the full-game return of its lone starter with size, Jake Herres. He scored four points off the jump shot and a driving dunk and helped rebound and break Allen’s full-court man-to-man press.
Hansel Quezada ignired Easton early with 10 first-half points. Jacobs scored six on a pair of threes. Both teams struggled at the free-throw line: Easton made 3 of 8, Allen 4 of 11.
The Canaries will have to continue their learning away from Sewards Gymnasium. After having their home opener postponed on Friday, they will not play in their gym until they host their Christmas Tournament. Saturday they travel across town to Dieruff.
Already Allen has made trips to Hershey, Whitehall, Freedom, and Easton.
Easton will focus on one trip in the coming practices—the journey back on defense via full-out sprints. Too many three-point shots turned into long rebounds, which turned in to outlet passes, which begat layups, which begat Allen press setups, which begat defeat for the Red Rovers, a squad that has astonished by winning early without its only tall player in Herres.
North Hunterdon outlasts Allen 92-89 as DelSantro matches career-best 30 points
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.
LIBERTY'S SERRANO SCORES LAST 21 POINTS VS. PMW
Alex Serrano scored 21 straight points from the middle of the third quarter to game’s end as Liberty fought back to a 57-55 win over Pocono Mountain West, who led by 10 at halftime.
Serrano, a Lonzo Ball lookalike, posted a career-high 30 points for the Hurricanes (2-2). Most of his points came on slicing drives, finishing with either hand. He also buried a key three-pointer to tie the game at 47 early in the fourth quarter.
“My teammates kept coming to me,” he said. “I was definitely feeling it. I was hot.”
With Serrano handling the scoring, the rest of the Canes limited Pocono Mountain West to one shot on their offensive possessions. The Panthers rimmed a three-pointer in the final seconds that would have given them the win.
Said Serrano, who averages 17.7 points per game and is being recruited locally by East Stroudsburg and Moravian, “We were down 10 at halftime against a good team. This was a good win.”
Lee Mosley led the Panthers with 14, 10 before halftime. Ishyne Pilgrim had 10. Travis Elmore scored all eight of his points in the second half to spark PMW.
.. Their outside shooting went cold against Liberty’s 2-3 zone, which tightened in the second half and allowed them to sink back and cut off Panther drives.
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.
Nazareth moves to 4-1. Dotson nets 19. UCLA still 1st.
There’s a beauty to watching Joe Arndt-coached teams play.
No matter the year or the level of talent, they share the ball. They pass before they waste a dribble. The keep spacing and execute patterns while still playing loose.
And through it all, the ball still finds the best shooters. Sunday the Blue Eagles (4-1) raced ahead of host Whitehall 38-22 at halftime with star Jahan Dotson scoring 15. He hit threes from each corner. He drove into traffic but pulled up before the congestion.
Of all the people to complete a pass to, Dotson's as good as any. The football slot receiver is headed to UCLA ... we think.
Nazareth rotated 12 players with plays often culminating in open threes after quick ball reversals in a 63-50 victory. The margin had swelled almost double that against a feisty Whitehall team that’s rebuilding as four Blue Eagles hit triples.
Dotson finished with 19, including three threes. He also rebounded and lofted outlet passes for transition baskets. Last year he played for a prep school, missing this part of basketball season with a broken leg. He wound up averaging seven points a game when he was healthy. In their big win over Wilson West Lawn this weekend, he had 13. Teammate Noah Briggs led that night with 26.
Nazareth (4-1, 2-0 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference) was without backup center Zach Umar, a 6-7 sophomore who double-rosters with the junior varsity. This team is small in the backcourt but bit and brawny up front.
.. Dotson will stuff the stat sheet. A football recruit verbally committed to UCLA and new coach Chip Kelly, the former Philadelphia Eagles and Oregon Ducks coach, Dotson said Kelly called him after being hired.
“He said, ‘If you’ve watched my Oregon teams, you know we’ll throw the ball a lot and you’ll get plenty of (targets),’ “ said Dotson. “He said, ‘When I had Marcus Mariotta he threw for over 3,000 yards at Oregon.’”
Dotson has verbally committed, but he’s not going to sign to make it official during the early signing period this week. Rather, he’ll wait until February.
He plans to indulge a few more campus visits, places like Penn State, Rutgers, and other Big Ten schools, as well as Syracuse.
The shifty slot receiver, at 6-foot-1, would get plenty of catch-and-run chances at Oregon, like he did at Nazareth playing for innovative Tom Falzone.
.. Before that, however, he still has a long jump state title to defend as well as trying to best his 400-meter run in track, where he placed fourth in Pennsylvania as a sophomore.