NEWTOWN – Ranked 25th in a field in which 24 teams make it to the postseason, Council Rock North just missed a District 1 Tournament bid last season.
Of course, none of that matters this year as all five of the Indians’ starters have graduated including center James Kosyla.
“We definitely don’t have that physical intimidator inside that we had last year with James,” said second-year CR North head coach Jesse Krasna. “But we have guys who bring other strengths so we’ll have to play a little bit different.
“We’re not going to be pounding the ball inside quite as much.
“We’re just trying to create some type of offense that fits our personnel.”
The only player returning with any significant minutes on varsity last year is senior Matt McAlister, a 6-1 shooting guard for the Rock. The good news is that McAllister, and seniors Angad Ahluwalia and Ethan Schaefer spent the offseason playing summer ball for the PA Playaz.
Additionally, 6-3 senior Brady Haggerty spent a significant amount of time fine-tuning his game in the offseason. It certainly showed in Wednesday afternoon’s scrimmage with Upper Merion. Brady drained 28 points in just three quarters of action, a performance that included a half-dozen 3-point baskets.
“I think we’re going to be a lot better this season,” said McAlister. “We’ve been together the whole offseason and we all just know how to play with each other.
“I think this season’s going to be a lot different than last year; hopefully, we’ll get a playoff spot.”
In the scrimmage with the Vikings, who also saw all five of their starters graduate, the Indians got a chance to demonstrate their new look. Trailing 14-6 in the first period, the Rock rebounded with an eight-point run to draw even by the end of the quarter.
Highlighting the scoring string were 3-balls by McAlister and Haggerty, who deadlocked the score at 14-all with a steal and ensuing dunk with 26 seconds remaining.
“We have a lot of run and jump defenses and our whole identity is playing defense and trying to get a lot of steals to create offense,” said McAlister. “Most of our steals are going to lead to fast breaks and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
“We’re a lot smaller than most teams so we want to try to run on everyone.”
Leading 11-10 in the second period, Ahluwalia put CR North on top, 15-12, using a jumper on one possession and a steal and ensuing layup on the next. Upper Merion sophomore Chris Clark deadlocked the score at 15-all with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, however.
Council Rock put 16 points on the scoreboard in the fourth period before the Vikings notched their first basket. Starting off with a fast-break bucket by Schaefer, the Indians poured it on strong using a pair of driving layups by McAlister and three field goals by Haggerty including two 3-pointers to go up, 14-0.
A pair of free throws by James Duffy capped off the scoring run as North went on to win the final frame, 21-6.
“When we ran and got the ball into transition, we looked pretty good,” said Krasna. “I think in the half-court we were doing a good job of finding our shooters
“We were moving the ball and sharing the ball, which is something we’ve been preaching throughout the offseason.
“Defensively, I think our transition defense is something we need to work on.”
Looking at all the new faces, either junior D.J. Mischak or senior Conor O’Donnell will be manning the point this season. In the front-court, the Indians will look to forwards Angad Ahluwalia and Justin Walton. For shooters, they’ll look for guards Parker Ehlin, Harry Wyatt and of course, Hagerty.
“We have a lot of guys that are new to varsity basketball this year,” said Krasna. “Once they got accustomed to the speed and the physicality, they played pretty well the last couple quarters.
“I think they settled in.”
After getting off to a slow start last season, the Indians – 9-13; 6-6 in 2016-17 – came on strong in the second-half with wins over Neshaminy, sister school CR South and Bensalem along with a 10-point triumph over Pennsbury, a team that crushed the Rock by 40 points the first time around.
With five new starters this year, it’s a whole new world, however.
“We’re throwing paint against the wall and seeing how it turns out,” explained Krasna.
“We’re playing around with lineups – seeing what works, what doesn’t work, changing defenses a lot.
Whether or not CR North makes it back to the postseason this year remains to be seen. Krasna says his players, returning and first-year varsity alike, saw how close last year’s group came.
“It’s definitely some motivation for all of our guys and it’s definitely a goal, but it’s not thee goal,” the coach explained.
“Since we have a new group, the goal is to just improve every day.
“If that happens, by the end of the season, I think we’re going to be pretty content with where we’re at.”
The Rock opens its current campaign Dec. 12 at CB South before coming home to face CB West Dec. 14 then at Upper Dublin Dec. 16. North opens Suburban One National League play Dec. 19 at home against Truman, whom they defeated twice last season.
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH BOYS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE (2017-18)
(2016-17 RECORD: 9-13; 6-6: SOL NATIONAL)
(H) 12/14/17 7:00 PM vs. Central Bucks West
(A) 12/16/17 7:30 PM vs. Upper Dublin
(H) 12/19/17 7:00 PM vs. Harry S Truman
(A) 12/22/17 7:00 PM vs. Council Rock South
(A) 12/27/17 4:30 PM vs. Unionville
(A) 12/28/17 TBA vs. Unionville
(H) 01/02/18 7:00 PM vs. Bensalem
(H) 01/05/18 7:00 PM vs. Abington
(A) 01/09/18 7:00 PM vs. Neshaminy
(H) 01/11/18 7:00 PM vs. Pennsbury
(A) 01/13/18 12:00 PM vs. Springfield
(A) 01/15/18 TBA vs. Penn Wood
(A) 01/19/18 7:00 PM vs. Harry S Truman
(H) 01/20/18 1:00 PM vs. William Tennent
(H) 01/23/18 5:00 PM vs. Council Rock South
(A) 01/25/18 7:00 PM vs. Bensalem
(H) 01/27/18 1:30 PM vs. Perkiomen Valley
(A) 01/30/18 7:00 PM vs. Abington
(H) 02/02/18 5:00 PM vs. Neshaminy
(A) 02/06/18 7:00 PM vs. Pennsbury
(H) 02/10/18 TBA vs. Haverford
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