HOLLAND – Council Rock South earned its first playoff bid in nine years last season and hosted the first playoff game ever on its home court. Like its sister school CR North however, just about everyone with any significant varsity minutes has graduated.
The good news is that, despite the departure of twin towers Ryan McNamee and Ryan Boyd, the Golden Hawks return to the hardwood with plenty of height. Abundance of height doesn’t always benefit the team in the win column, however, says second-year CR South head coach Derek Wright.
“When it really comes down to it, you have to play big,” said Wright. “I’ve had years where the tallest guys were 6-2 but they play like they’re 6-6 and I’ve had teams with 6-6 players that play like they’re 6-2.
“As long as we play big, we’ll be alright.”
The Hawks have exactly one week to figure things out. In addition to the Ryans, South must find a way to replace the talent previously provided by departed starters Austin Thomas, Kevin Newbert and Alex Nordenholt, the team’s leading scorer in 2016-17. Sometimes starter Shaun Smith and two other players also graduated in June.
Senior Christian Jabbar is the only returning starter in the lineup while 6-1 senior Trey Irvin and 6-2 junior Shawn Blank are the only remaining players returning with strictly varsity experience last season.
What’s more, Irvin and Blank are unavailable to play at the present time due to injuries.
“We have some injuries early in the year so it’s good that we’re getting some guys that we might need to depend on off the bench to actually get some significant time to start the year,” explained Wright.
“It’s good for the other guys who need playing time.”
Seniors Spencer Haun, Zach Schade, Simon Magidenko (6-3) and Kyle Meakim (5-10) were all swing players last season.
Yesterday at the Hawks’ Nest, South hosted a tri-scrimmage with Cardinal O’Hara and William Tennent. The coach had this to say of his team’s performance in the practice game with the Lions and Panthers.
“We need work,” he said. “We made the effort to do the right thing; we just didn’t execute very well.
“We have a lot to work on offensively and in terms of taking care of the basketball.”
Good thing the Hawks have another week of practice before opening the season Dec. 8 in the Hatboro-Horsham Tipoff Tournament.
The coach is hoping Blank can fill the role at the point, a task performed by Thomas last season. Down low, South will look to Haun, who is 6-4, Schade, who is 6-5, and Estaban Gomez, a 6-5 senior who played JV ball last season. Additionally, Kevin McNamee is a 6-5 sophomore projected to swing this season.
For shooters, the Hawks will look to Jabbar, Irvin, Blank and Meakim.
“Most of our perimeter guys shoot the ball pretty well and Christian and Trey are probably our best returning shooters,” explained Wright. “But Shawn (Blank) can shoot the ball, and so can Kyle Meakim, so we expect them to give us help on the perimeter.
While this is only Wright’s second year on Rock Way, Derek guided the Indians for 14 campaigns before switching sides prior to last season. The coach says the current group is well aware of the expectations.
“These guys know what to expect from our coaching staff much more this year,” said Wright. “There’s more of a comfort level with our philosophy and our foundation, what we do, which is defending and rebounding.
“The challenge is having guys who don’t have a lot of varsity experience.
“Last year, we had a lot of guys with varsity experience; they just didn’t have experience with us.”
Last year, South got off to a 7-1 start before falling into a midseason slump after injuries to Newbert and Boyd. The Hawks sustained late-season losses to CR North, Neshaminy and Abington before heading to districts, where they earned a No. 15 playoff seeding.
In the District 1 Class 6A Tournament, CR South was promptly eliminated in a 39-36 loss to the Patriots in a battle that went to double overtime.
“The playoff was just a great high school game,” said Wright. “Two really tough teams and they just made a few more shots at the end.”
The coach believes the current crop of Hawk hoopsters can reach the same heights as last year’s team, despite its inexperience on the varsity level.
“I think this group is capable of doing a lot of the things we did last year,” said Wright.
“I think we can be a really good defensive team and I think we can rebound well. But we’re going to have to find different ways to score than we did last year.”
After opening the season vs. Lower Moreland, South faces the winner of the Hatboro-Horsham/William Tennent matchup. Unless the Hawks lose to the Lions, then they would face the loser in Hatboro’s tipoff game. CR South won the tournament last year.
From there, the Hawks come home Dec. 13 when they will face CB East in a duel that could turn into a grudge match, given South’s ouster from last year’s district tournament at the hand of the Patriots.
The Hawks are also competing in the Steel City Challenge three days later at Northampton Community College and will take part in the Big Game Showcase the next to last day of the year at Interboro High School.
In January, South has non-league duels slated against New Foundations Charter and Sankofa Freedom Academy, the defending District 12 Class A champion and a state qualifier in 2017.
Toward the end of the month, the Hawks will square off against SOL Continental Conference foes CB South and North Penn, which won that division before finishing fifth in the District 1 Class 6A Tournament and qualifying for states.
Council Rock South Boys Basketball Schedule (2017-2018)
2016-17 RECORD: 13-10, 7-5: SOL NATIONAL
(A) 12/08/17 5:15 PM Lower Moreland, at Hatboro Horsham
(A) 12/09/17 TBA Hatboro Horsham Tipoff
(H) 12/13/17 7:00 PM vs. Central Bucks East
(A) 12/16/17 1:45 PM Steel City Challenge, at Northampton Community College
(A) 12/19/17 7:00 PM vs. Abington
(H) 12/22/17 7:00 PM vs. Council Rock North
(A) 12/30/17 8:00 PM Big Game Showcase, at Interboro
(A) 01/04/18 7:00 PM vs. New Foundations Charter
(H) 01/05/18 7:00 PM vs. Sankofa Freedom Academy
(A) 01/09/18 7:00 PM vs. Pennsbury
(H) 01/11/18 7:00 PM vs. Bensalem
(A) 01/13/18 3:00 PM SOL Challenge, at William Tennent
(A) 01/16/18 7:00 PM vs. Neshaminy
(H) 01/19/18 7:00 PM vs. Abington
(A) 01/20/18 1:30 PM vs. Central Bucks South
(A) 01/23/18 6:30 PM vs. Council Rock North
(A) 01/26/18 7:00 PM vs. Harry S Truman
(H) 01/30/18 7:00 PM vs. North Penn
(H) 02/02/18 7:00 PM vs. Pennsbury
(A) 02/06/18 7:00 PM vs. Bensalem
(H) 02/08/18 7:00 PM vs. Neshaminy
(H) 02/09/18 7:00 PM vs. Harry S Truman
(A) 02/10/18 TBA SOL Championships TBA
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