Last year, the Northern Lehigh boys' basketball team made a run through the postseason straight into the state playoffs.
This year's returning Bulldog players feel they missed out on some worthy hardware along the way, however.
With the thought of falling a game short of both the Colonial League and District 11 Class 3A championship games in the back of their minds, Jeff Miller knows his Northern Lehigh squad wants more than just to savor the postseason experience alone this season. Miller, in his third year at the helm, said the returning players want something concrete in hand to reflect on when this season comes to a completion.
"They experienced the playoffs," Miller said. "Now, I think they understand what it's all about and all the hype that goes with it. And, they're hungry for the gold medal around their neck."
And to get there, Miller feels it will come from the necessary leadership provided on and off the hardwood.
A year ago, it was the likes of Thatcher George, Josh Pristash and Devin Glose, who provided the majority of the guidance towards an impressive 20-6 overall record and 13-3 in the Colonial League. The three have graduated and Miller was concerned at first of who the Bulldogs would look to this year. Over the first week and a half of practice, his seniors - Lucas Pierce (last year's TIMES NEWS Player of the Year), Caleb Johnson and Josh Eden surprised their head coach.
"We didn't know who was going to be the leader on this team because none of them really are outspoken or loud," Miller stressed. "However, all three of them combined have really stepped up. Now, it's a strong point of ours. Where I was worried at first about not having a leader and have it as a kind of a weakness, I actually think it's a strong point of ours with those three kids.
"They come to practice every day and really work hard. In my years here, we have some of the better practices we have had in the first week and a half of practice."
Not only will Pierce and Johnson, who played in all 26 games last season, look to continue those leadership skills once the season starts, they'll be looked to once again to continue the trend of lending the helping hand with their scoring abilities. Pierce led the Bulldogs with 12.19 points per game, while Johnson was right behind with 9.96 ppg. last season.
Eden (3.74 ppg), along with juniors Tyler Dibilio (5.15 ppg), Josh Landensberger (2.68) and Matt Egan (0.85), will also look to contribute more this season.
While leadership and scoring will be key for the Bulldogs, Miller feels the his team's height will threaten opponents througout the season.
"Our strength will be our size," Miller said. "Pierce stands at 6-7, while Johnson, Egan and Landensberger all are 6-5. With our size, we hope to be able to certainly out-rebound teams both at the defensive and offensive end. We hope to also be able to create mis-matches on the both ends."
While he is concerned with the Bulldogs' quickness out on the competitive court, Miller hopes that won't slow his program from attaining some lofty expectations this season.
"Going into every year, we certainly want to qualify for the league playoffs to give ourselves a shot at winning the league, qualify for districts and in turn it would be nice to get back into the state playoffs," Miller said.