Boys basketball teams getting offensive
Palmerton's Kody Kratzer shoots a three-pointer during a recent game. Scoring has increased among area boys teams the past few seasons. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Who doesn’t love to see a lot of scoring in high school basketball games?
This season, teams are giving fans what they want.
Last year, nearly 1,200 more points were scored than in the 2016-17 season and this year’s numbers are on pace to break last year’s record with teams averaging over 56 points per game — up three points from last year.
Steph Curry effect
“I believe a main reason for the spike in scoring is that the talent level is up,” said Tamaqua coach Jim Barron. “We have two kids, Brayden Knoblauch and Lucas Gregoire who average in the high teens per game and if you look around, many teams have one or two players with high averages.”
Panther Valley coach Pat Crampsie, who has Rene Figueroa dropping down 25 points a night, says the modern high school game is a product of what might be called, “Steph Curry ball.”
“Every 8-year-old wants to be a long range shooter like Curry,” said Crampsie, whose Panthers lead area teams with nearly 70 points a game, “and you can certainly see that at the high school level, too. We play a fast pace transition defense to offense game because we’re smaller, but quicker and our style has helped us put up a lot of points when our shooters are on target.”
“Go to any park and you won’t see kids shooting layups,” said Barron. “They’re emulating Curry and shooting long threes.”
Palmerton coach Ken Termini believes that more possessions result in more shots that add up to more points.
“The players today are pretty good at getting up and down the floor quickly,” he explained. “Not only are there more dynamic shooters getting off more shots, but more steals become more possessions and result in easy layups. The emphasis on offensive rebounding has also contributed to the increase in scoring with the second and third attempts before the ball goes in.”
Analytics & three-pointers
All three coaches have utilized analytics in preparation to get their players into high percentage shooting positions.
“During our first few weeks of practice, we record each player shooting from three-point distances,” said Crampsie, “so we know where we can position our kids for a good percentage three.”
“Of course we have designed plays to get our best shooters open,” said Barron, “and when somebody gets in a zone, we work to ride the hot hand.”
Termini contends that the analytics of taking a good shot today is different from what it was years ago.
“You might see 15 three-point attempts in a game and many are going in,” said Termini.
He explained that one of the reasons three-point shots are being converted at a higher percentage is because of “inside-out” play.
“Some teams like to work the ball inside and down low to collapse the defense and then pass it out to the wing for an open three-point shot,” he said. “The shooter in this case can step into the shot with forward momentum and that’s better than when he takes a three from the perimeter and he might actually be backing up.”
Statistics show that this season an average of nearly 30 percent of a team’s total game points are from three-point baskets.
Marian coach John Patton, whose Colts are scoring at a 60 point-per-game clip, also feels the three-point shot, those made and those missed, have had an effect on higher point totals.
“Missed threes usually cause long defensive rebounds. The transition to offense is quicker and the court is shorter to move up and score,” said Patton. “Shorter possessions often mean more possessions that you hope turn into more points.”
Tempo of play
Patton claims that a lack of bench depth has also added to scoring splurges.
“Defensive play is always something we coaches always stress and want to be better at playing, but when foul trouble moves a starter to the bench, his replacement is often not as good a defensive player, which can open up more scoring chances for your opponent.”
Diminished half court offensive play and the absence of the traditional center position have affected the pace of scoring as well.
More and more teams now employ a three-guard offense and favor a “run-and-gun” style of up-tempo basketball. You rarely hear a coach yell, “Set it up” anymore for a half court opportunity to score. Now when a rebound is secured, the shout is more likely to be, “Go! Go!”
Termini believes that the old school tradition of having the big kid playing underneath with his back to the basket is “pigeonholing.”
“It’s too limiting just to plant a 6-3 player at the low post,” Termini said. “They can be good outside shooters, too. No matter the size, kids score from everywhere.”
The “Steph Curry Effect,” the three-point shot, and up-tempo offenses have combined to keep scoreboard operators flashing higher numbers.
The increase in points comes to the delight of most fans, who like to see more balls go in the basket.
Despite the proliferation of offense, however, Barron, Crampsie, Termini and Patton all noted that you can’t consistently win games by being good on just one end of the court.
“Scoring is popular, but high numbers don’t always tell the story,” said Termini. “You need both a good offense and a good defense to be successful.”
So while offensive numbers are up significantly, it might be a little premature to forget the sports adage that “defense wins championships.”
JUST ONE MORE ... The Northern Lehigh boys and Pleasant Valley girls are both one win away from qualifying for the District 11 postseason playoff tournament.
The Bulldogs are standing at 10-6 with six games left. They currently stand in fifth in Class 4A behind Wilson, Tamaqua, Allentown Central Catholic and Bethlehem Catholic.
The PV girls are 10-4 with eight games remaining. The Bears are ranked fifth in Class 6A behind Northampton, Nazareth, Freedom and Parkland.
UNDER PRESSURE ... While the Northern Lehigh boys and Pleasant Valley girls are on the verge of clinching, several area teams have a little more work to do to get into the postseason.
The Palmerton boys (8-8) need to win three of their final six games to qualify, the Lehighton girls (8-9) need to win three of their last five, the Marian boys (7-9) and Jim Thorpe boys (7-9) both need to win four of their remaining six, and the Weatherly boys (6-8) need to win five of their final eight.
ERIKA “THE BOSS” DUBOSKY ... Panther Valley’s Erika Dubosky has been having a strong season and impressive career. This past week was one of her most impressive.
Last Monday, she scored 20 points against Tamaqua. She followed that up with 18 against points against Lehighton on Thursday, and then erupted for 28 in a non-league affair at Palisades on Friday.
She currently stands in the top six in the area in all three of the main offensive categories this season. She is third in area scoring with 322 points for an average of 20.13 points per game, fourth in free throw percentage (75 percent), and is sixth in three pointers (21).
RAIDERS ROLLING ... The Tamaqua boys had a strong week in the Schuylkill League. They posted a double-digit win over Panther Valley last Tuesday, before routing Pine Grove on Friday. The two victories locked up a District 11 playoff berth for the Raiders, who are now 11-4 overall.
Tamaqua displayed outstanding offensive balance, placing four players in double figures in both of the games.
Against PV, Lucas Gregoire (19), Brayden Knoblauch (17), Michael Bonetsky (12) and Devon Zehner (11) all reached doubles. Against Pine Grove, Derian Stianche and Gregoire both had 14 points, Knoblauch had 12 and Bonetsky added 10.
— Notes compiled by Andrew Steinmetz