Returning starters should lead Indians
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Members of the Lehighton boys basketball team for the 2013-14 season include, front row from left, manager Jarred Rehrig, Jordan Knappenberger, Tanner Zwetolitz, Ben Cordova, Kris Knappenberger, Max McCandless, manager Tyler Manogue; middle row, Coach D. J. Rossino, Tyler Crum, Tyler Williams, Anthony Rossino, Tom Ruzika, Jose Ortiz, Donovan Buchinsky, Coach Bobby Hahn; back row, Head Coach Richard Oertner, Vince Mele, James Farano, Nick Skrincosky, Hunter Greene, Nick Chambers and Coach Matt Oertner.
Depending on your viewpoint, the Lehighton boys basketball team could be in trouble this season or they might surpass the success they achieved a year ago.
And honestly, there are arguments for both cases.
The pessimist can look at early-season injuries, a tough league schedule, and a lack of depth as evidence the Indians may struggle.
The optimist, though, will point out the return of many starters, a balanced offensive attack, and an upswing in the program as reasons for a winning record and a return to the district playoffs.
"There's a lot still up in the air right now," said head coach Rich Oertner. "Once we get over the injury bug, I think we'll be okay.
"Five of these guys played a lot of minutes last year. And the other guys got a lot of summer minutes. I think we run the floor pretty well. We play well as a unit and that comes from playing together, but we need to get healthy and we need to not turn the ball over. Most importantly, we need to play good defense. Our goal is still to make the district playoffs. We stole a couple games last year to get us into districts, and with what we have back we feel we should at least be at that point (of making districts)."
As Oertner said, he returns a majority of the squad that went 11-11 during the regular season last year. Leading the way is junior Tyler Crum, who averaged 13.8 points per game. Crum, however, is one of two starters already banged up. The other is 6-4 senior Vince Mele, who is slated to be the team's starting center.
The remaining starters all averaged over eight points a contest a year ago. They include seniors James Farano (8.50) and Anthony Rossino (8.58) and junior Jordan Knappenberger (8.29).
"Scoring should come from everybody," said Oertner, who is in his third season at Lehighton. "We're very well-balanced. I'm hoping we have five players that average 10 points a game. I don't know if that will happen, but it very well could. Every night somebody different could be our top scorer. That's nice to have."
What isn't nice is the uncertainty at the defensive end.
"Defensively, we still haven't got it yet," said Oertner. "There were times last year I thought we were okay, but a lot of times we played a lot of gimmick defenses to try and hide what we couldn't do. We switched defenses every minute just to try and keep teams off-balance. We may do that again this year."
Oertner does have something this year that he didn't last season, which is a solid core of upperclassmen.
"Farano has pretty much taken over the leadership role. He was our captain last year and he's still our leader now. Rossino and Mele also step up once in a while, being the other senior starters. I'm not sure how deep we are, but with the early injuries we've had it's given me a chance to put some other kids in there and get them some time."
Tyler Williams, a junior, is Oertner's top player off the bench. Others expected to see action include senior Max McCandless, junior Tom Ruzicka and sophomores Tanner Zwetolitz and Nick Chambers.
Other members of the team are Kris Knappenberger, Jose Ortiz, Ben Cordova, Hunter Greene, Nick Skrincosky and Donovan Buchinsky.
"I think we can be competitive in every game we play," said Oertner. "I think the league is very balanced this year. From top to bottom I think anybody can beat anybody which makes for a good league."