Bristol back on the court with a whole new look

BRISTOL BORO – While basketball season doesn’t even start for another two weeks, the hoops talk around Bristol Boro is about some significant changes surrounding the two-time defending District 1-AA champion Warriors.

Tops on the list is a new coach. Two-year head coach Tyrone Lewis is out and Matt Gasper is in. Lewis stepped down after last season to take a position with the men’s team at his alma matter Niagara.

A 2007 graduate of Bristol and former junior varsity boys coach, Gasper was a natural replacement for Lewis, a Harry S Truman graduate who set scoring records at Niagara before playing some pro ball overseas.

“These are my JV kids finally coming up to play varsity minutes so I know what they can and can’t do on the court,” said Gasper in a recent interview. “They know what I expect from them and I know what I’m going to get from them. So it’s definitely a good time for us to come together on this big stage at the varsity level.”

In addition to the new coach, expect to see some big changes in personnel. Gone are graduates Siedd McFadden, Aiden Coughlin, Dave D’Angelo, Nick Santana, Ryan Bowman, Jabul and Jakkar Rankins. Despite the departures, the new coach says you can expect the Warriors to continue to run the floor in their upcoming campaign.

“With the type of kids we have this year, we’re going to have a run and gun type of offense,” said Gasper.

“We have a lot of athletes – a lot more than we had last year coming through – so we definitely want to have the ability to run and jump.

The Warriors have just one returning starter and that’s senior forward Dionte Harris, who averaged double-digit scoring last season. It’s up to Gasper to surround Harris with a new cast that’s capable of complimenting the star forward.

Bristol is taking the floor for the first time without D’Angelo, Santana and Coughlin, all big three-point shooters for the Warriors. Gasper says he has the talent to fill the void left by the departing student-athletes.

Junior Parker Kelley, who hit a pair of threes in the D-1 championship win over Church Farm School, should help out on the perimeter, he says. The new coach also expects big things from Ronnie Garrison, a player who played mostly JV ball last year but got some varsity minutes toward the end of the season.

“It’s his time – his time to grow into his role as an offensive option and not just a big guy but somebody who can control the game,” says Gasper.

Senior Dom Sica, a player who couldn’t play last year because of a knee injury, and sophomore Dayeshawn Cortes, a recent transfer from Bensalem, should also see significant minutes.

Additionally, Gasper is also hoping the big man Devon Adams can play some varsity minutes this season when he’s done playing football.

“He’ll be a big asset for us if he can come out,” said Gasper, of the 6-6, 330-pound Adams.

Last year, Adams was a key component to the Warriors’ midseason win at home over Church Farm that started Bristol on the comeback trail.

“Him in the middle is huge for us on defense because we can gamble a little bit more on the three-pointer knowing that big Dev is back there to seal up the paint for people that slash and the other big men that we’re going to face.”

Of the eight- to nine-man rotation utilized by Lewis last year, seven have graduated. The good news is that the current group is anxious to get out on the floor and prove their might.

“We have a lot of open minutes for these kids to fight for,” said Gasper. “So far in practice, that’s what I’ve seen – them fighting for their minutes. They want to build off of last year’s team and win their own district championship.”

Two years ago, when Bristol won its first D-1 title in 13 seasons, the victory was almost expected. Last year, the Warriors finished an 11-10 campaign before getting clobbered by Holy Ghost in a Bicentennial Athletic League opener. And the Firebirds didn’t even win the league last year; Lower Moreland did.

In districts, you saw a different team, however. The No. 4 seed in a four-team field, Bristol blew open a close game at the half in the semifinals with 44 points after the break to post a double-digit victory over top seed Calvary Christian.

“Two years ago, we had a group that had been playing together since elementary school and they were expected to win as seniors,” explained Gasper.

“Last year, it was a bunch of kids who didn’t really play together too much.

“But when the playoffs began, they came together.”

Then came the wild and wooly finish in the district championship. Trailing by 15 points with just four minutes to play, the boys in Red & White started chipping away at the Griffins’ lead.

CFS leading scorer Michael Mohamed missed the second of two free throws at the end of regulation to send the battle to overtime tied at 55-all. McFadden – who didn’t score a point until midway through the third period – registered the winning basket, a putback layup off the glass of a miss by Harris with seven seconds to go in the extra session.

For his part, Harris poured 29 points into the basket, 19 of which came after intermission, not the least of which were a pair of free throws in overtime that tied the score at 63-all.

“The Church Farm district championship game was probably one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of,” says Gasper.

When victory was obtained, it was all the more sweeter.

“No one expected us to ever get to the championship and in that game once we were down, a lot of people expected us to fold,” the coach explained. “We just played with a lot of heart, something we always play with and we just fought through it and got back in it at the end.”

A big part of the title win over Church Farm was intentionally fouling the Griffins’ biggest man of all, 6-10 freshman Fred Odhiambo.

“We knew he wasn’t a great free throw shooter and he hadn’t been all season long.

“That got us back in the game. We were able to slow the game down, get (Odhiambo) to miss a few key free throws and grab the rebounds and score at the other end.

“It was a huge coaching gamble but it paid off for us in the end.”

And it’s games like that where an assistant coach learns a lot from his mentor. Under Lewis’ tutelage, Gasper says he learned a lot.

“He played a lot in his own college career and playing professionally, so he knows a lot about the game,” said Matt, of Lewis. “He spent a lot of time teaching the kids but as he was teaching the kids, he was also teaching me.”

Here’s hoping Gasper’s notes from last season pay off for the Warriors in their current campaign.

Contact the author at, @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

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