Not a lot of basketball teams are able to keep large classes of players all the way through their senior year.
With only five available starting spots there isn't a lot of playing time to go around. If players today don't get what they (or their parents) feel is a fair share of playing time, they usually don't stick around.
That's what makes this year's Northwestern team unique. The Tigers have a class of 10 seniors on the varsity team. Those seniors range from starters who play more than 20 minutes per game, to role players who don't see much action. Even though some of them don't see the court in half of the team's games, they still come to practice and work hard. They still show the same dedication to the team as anyone else. And they're still ready to go if they're number gets called.
"I've played basketball all my life," said Northwestern senior Kyle Wagner. "I love it too much to quit.
"It stinks I'm not playing sometimes, but I understand what coach (BJ) Dugan is trying to do. He's playing the best players so we can have the most successful season."
Wagner played in just nine of the team's first 15 games, scoring a total of six points. Sure, he'd rather be in the game than sitting on the bench, but he enjoys watching his teammates and contributing where he can. And he knows that at any time an injury or foul trouble could get him on the court.
"Anything can happen," Wagner said. "I try to stay as focused as possible."
Dalton Conway is a Northwestern senior in his third year with the basketball program. Baseball is Conway's first sport, but he gave up football after his sophomore year and began playing basketball.
Because he's only gotten into seven of his team's first 15 basketball games, practice is Conway's "time to shine," he said. While he'd love to play more, he's never thought of quitting.
"You have to be here for the team," Conway said. "It's a team sport. You don't want to screw teammates over because you're selfish."
Greg Collopy, who also saw action in seven of the team's first 15 games, was called into meaningful action recently when starter Andrew Rivera was out with an injury.
Collopy doesn't mind his role. Like all of his teammates, he's played sports with mainly the same group of friends since they were all in elementary school. This is their final season together before they all graduate.
"It's fun to play and be around your friends at practice," Collopy said. "We try to make it as fun as we can and still get work done."
Dugan is happy to have such a dedicated group and doesn't mind the challenge of trying to get them all some playing time.
"Several of the seniors have come in and given us some minutes," he said. "They work hard in practice and we try to reward them when we can."
The full American experience ... Northwestern senior Koen de Bruijn, an exchange student from Rotterdam, Holland, is in his first year playing basketball. He played a similar sport, Korfball, in his home country, and is enjoying his time with the Tigers varsity team.
"I learn something every day," he said. "It's different than I expected. I looked at basketball on the internet. Actually playing is more down to earth, more hard work. It's nice to see that it's based on hard work and dedication."
de Bruijn has played in six of Northwestern's first 16 games and scored his first basket of the season Tuesday against Notre Dame.
BANGED UP .... Who says basketball isn't a physical game?
The Marian Fillies' Gillian Ferko suffered her second concussion of the season in victory over Williams Valley on Monday, Jan. 18. Ferko has missed the last three games and won't be back in the very near future according to Fillies coach Paul Brutto.
"Gillian had a mild concussion early in the season, but this one was a little worse," said Brutto following Saturday's victory over Lehighton. "We're taking precautions to make sure she is definitely alright before she returns. Right now, we're hoping to have her back in two or three weeks."
If Brutto's time table is accurate, Ferko, who has been sitting on the bench in street clothes for the last several games, could be back on the court for the final week of the regular season. She was the Fillies' third leading scorer (7. 7 ppg.) and top rebounder at the time of her injury.
EN FUEGO ... There's hot and then there's HOT.
A pair of boys basketball players were definitely in the zone last week. Northern Lehigh's Jordan Waylen and Tamaqua's Mike Taylor both scored more points in one quarter of play than most of the top offensive players in the area usually score in a game.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Waylen drilled four three-pointers and scored 16 points in the first quarter of his team's game against Wilson.
Three nights later, Taylor topped that with an 18-point explosion in the second quarter of the Raiders' game against Jim Thorpe. Taylor finished the game with 31 points and six three-pointers. The 31 points ties him with Weatherly's Keith Barna and the Lehighton girls' Jordyn Homyak for the most points by an area player this season. Taylor's big scoring night was the most by a Tamaqua boys player since Mike Yocum scored 33 points against Palmerton on Dec. 22, 2003. His six three-pointers were the most by a Raider since P.J. McCall hit six against Jim Thorpe on Jan. 20, 2004.
TREY MAN ... Northwestern's Kevin Oxley tied a school record Tuesday against Notre Dame when he drained seven three-pointers.
The seven treys in a game matched the Tiger mark previously set by Jason Beani back on Jan. 21, 2000.
Oxley currently has 48 threes this season, which is six away from the team's single-season mark of 54 set by Ryan Shaughnessy in the 1994-95 campaign. The senior guard, who has 124 treys in his career, is also within range of Shaughnessy's all-time team mark of 140.
JOINING THE PARTY ... Four more local basketball teams qualified for the District 11 playoffs this past week.
On the boys' side, Jim Thorpe, Northern Lehigh and Panther Valley all won their 11th overall game - guaranteeing themselves at least a .500 record.
The Marian Filles also qualified with their 45-21 victory over Minersville this past Monday night.
These teams will join the Northern Lehigh and Tamaqua girls, along with the Marian and Weatherly boys, who all qualified last week.