Tigers counting on total team effort
Northwestern has six seniors on its roster this season, which is pretty good considering it lost five from last year’s squad.
The departures will definitely cut deep, considering the Tigers lost 1,000-point scorer Sam Yadush, as well as last year’s leading scorer, Derek Thomas, to graduation.
When it comes to replacing those players, head coach Billy Hallman believes the best way to go about it is by using the whole team.
“It’s going to be a team effort, and they sort of embrace that,” said Hallman. “We lost Sam Yadush, he was important for us with his scoring and ball-handling, so we don’t have your prototypical point guard this year. We lost Devin Thomas’ scoring and again, we can’t replace all of that with one guy, so it’s going to be a team effort this year to pick up what we lost. We’re going to do it as a team.”
With the top two scorers from last season gone, the good news is that the team’s third best scorer is back for his senior season. Deven Bollinger averaged just under 10 points per game last season and is one of the key seniors on this year’s squad. Senior Sean McCann was among the league leaders with 40 three-pointers last season, and will be counted on to play much the same role since Yadush was the other deep sharpshooter for the Tigers. Luke Hallman comes into his senior season after having his past two seasons cut short by knee injuries, but is healthy and ready to compete.
Among underclassmen, Hallman is looking to a few guys who have shown in practice that they want to pick up some of the slack and get more varsity playing time this season. The emergence of young players has been a pleasant surprise for Hallman.
“Nick Henry and Andres Garrido have already stepped up in the first two weeks,” said Hallman. “Cayden Fitch, a freshman, is already pushing to get on the court, so we’ll mix those guys in. R.J. Zack is a junior who is long and lanky and does everything right and with Deven [Bollinger], a senior, we’ve got a pretty good rotation. We’re going to be deeper than I thought we were even a week ago.”
Northwestern made it to the district semifinals last season and qualified for the PIAA tournament, but lost in the first round of play at states. This season, they’ve set their sights on another part of the offseason that has eluded them, but that Hallman believes will ultimately lead them to bigger and better things in districts and states.
“We set our goals; we haven’t made the league tournament since I’ve been here, so that’s goal No. 1,” said Hallman. “I think to make the league tournament sort of sets you up. We qualified for the state tournament last year, which was a great experience, but these guys aren’t satisfied with just getting there; they want to get there again and win at least one game.”
Hallman mentioned an intangible that could help spur on his players, especially some of the seniors. The Northwestern football season ended in districts thanks to a couple of highly disputed calls by officials. But the disappointment from that season could play a role in sparking things on the court this winter.
“We’ve got a couple of football guys, too, who still have a little bit of a sour taste in their mouth,” Hallman said. “They had a great season, but it ended a little sour, so that may help us a little bit.”
While the high school season officially opens on Friday, the Tigers don’t open until Monday when they play at Saucon Valley. They don’t play their first home game until Dec. 13, when they host Southern Lehigh.