Despite losses, Raiders primed for success
The 2018-19 Tamaqua boys varsity basketball team consists of, front from left, Barron Stauffenberg, Nicko Bolletino, Luke Mateyak, Michael Bonetsky, Wesley Griffin, Chase Barron; back row, Nathan Gregoire, Derian Stianche, Lucas Gregoire, Tavio Agosti, Aaron Gutierrez, Devon Zehner and Brayden Knoblauch. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
In any team sport it’s important, but in the game of basketball, it’s arguably more vital to have strong leaders than any other.
A team’s point guard is commonly referred to as the “floor general,” and with the loss of Raiders do-it-all point guard from a season ago in Thad Zuber, along with fellow contributors Mitchell Kurek, Gabe Gregoire and Casey Rother, one could assume that Tamaqua not only lost its general, but also its lieutenants.
That would certainly seem to be the case for most teams, but not with the Raiders as they return a strong nucleus from 2017-18, including strong senior leadership and two talented underclassmen ready to step up and fill the void.
The Raiders, who finished 18-8 and advanced to the state tournament last season, are looking to once again compete for a Schuylkill League Division 1 championship and return to the postseason.
“We’re definitely going to miss those guys, but we have two seniors that have played a lot of basketball for us that we’re depending on to provide leadership in Derian Stianche and Mike Bonetsky. Also, juniors Brayden Knoblauch and Lucas Gregoire are going to be counted on for leadership as well,” said Barron.
Gregoire and Knoblauch are the top two returning scorers from a season ago, with Gregoire averaging just under 13 points per game and Knoblauch at 10.26 ppg. Knoblauch was Tamaqua’s best three-point threat, cashing in 39 times from behind the arc, while Gregoire led the team with 114 field goals. Two experienced scorers will certainly help the Raiders with their aspirations to go on another postseason run.
“We’re counting on Brayden and Lucas to score, and they’ve both gotten better and have become more versatile players; there’s more things they can do on the court this season. You can see the maturity factor coming into play now,” said Barron. “Lucas has gotten stronger and has developed a more consistent outside shot, so I feel comfortable even playing him at the three, and I think you’ll see Brayden fill that Zuber roll from a season ago. He’s gotten stronger, he’s going to the basket and finishing more, and he can even post up other guards as well.”
Bonetsky (4.36 ppg, 12 three-pointers), Knoblauch, Stianche (4.76 ppg), and Gregoire will be the core four with Tavio Agosti and Devon Zehner battling for the fifth starting spot. Nate Gregoire, Wes Griffin, Luke Mateyak, Aaron Guttierez and Barron Stauffenburg will also see time.
Barron will be counting on his starting five as well as his new bench this season to carry out the Raiders key principles, which are physicality and toughness, especially at the defensive end.
“We always want to be tough and physical and play tough defense, we want to work harder than other teams when we’re out on the court. That’s always how we want to play, and this group plays hard,” said Barron. “On the offensive end, I think we have the athletes to push the ball when the opportunity presents itself, but we can also slow it down in the half-court as well. We’re all just looking forward to getting started and competing.”