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Zephs ready to get season going

For right now, the Tigers will have to wait as the Zephyr boys basketball learned its season opener originally scheduled with Northwestern Lehigh in December was postponed until the calendar turns to 2021.

The boys also weren’t in the gym during a three-week period as it was announced that schools across the state will be suspending their extracurricular activities, which ended Monday.

With the schedule pushed back, their date with the Tigers, however, is no longer a certainty. Head coach Jeff Jones said that they resume play on Jan. 12, tipping off against Nazareth to start the season. They could still play the Tigers given the way the extended schedule could play out after the new year.

Even with that news, Jones has been molding this latest rendition of Zephyr boys basketball, a team that will rely on the strength of their four seniors to get them back into the postseason.

Jones said that he’s counting on Zack Hartman, Matt Snyder, Matt Lisicky and Luke Gilbert to provide that experience to help them return to the playoffs. All four played roles in that team that finished 12-11, qualifying for the district playoffs by winning three of their last four games.

Jones said that he expects each of these players will have an impact on this year’s squad.

“In some way shape or form, they will all be contributors to our team,” said Jones.

Among that group, Gilbert has logged the most varsity minutes. He’s been an integral part of their offense, someone who can get them perimeter points. He’ll be counted on to once again be a threat to drop a trey or splash a midrange jumper in an offense that will look to spread the ball around. Jones said that he’s a proficient three-point shooter, and that’s where he expects most of his shots to come from this season.

Hartman will do his work down low, contributing on the glass and getting points inside. He provided a spark off the bench in that role last year, and he’ll give them a tough presence in the paint.

Senior Matt Lisicky is another player who will do his work inside. Jones said that Lisicky, a co-captain this year along with Ian Werner, is a strong kid who has the grit and aggressiveness to play inside.

Senior Matt Snyder brings versatility to the court. Jones said that Snyder, who is 6-2, can play both inside and outside. Jones said that Snyder will probably play more on the perimeter and will use that length to shoot over smaller defenders.

They also return Tommy Buskirk. Buskirk started last season, and with that year of experience under his belt, the junior should continue to be a big part of their success on both ends on the court. He proved to be an accomplished defender last season, drawing tough assignments and responding well to those assignments. He’s also returns as the leading scorer on this year’s squad, and he should once again make his presence felt as a strong option in their offense.

Buskirk was a wing player last year in an offense that featured Tyler Holubowski, a point forward who relentlessly attacked the basket. In their offensive sets, Buskirk often played inside with his back to the basket. Jones said that this season, the interior will be the domain of Hartman, Lisicky, juniors Anthony Saed and Damonte Foreman, and sophomore Gavin Kneller. With those players in place inside, Jones said that Buskirk will be able to face the basket and shoot, or drive when the opportunity arises. Jones also said that Buskirk is stronger and that will aid his ability to get to the basket.

“We’re looking for Tommy to step out a little more and make those 15-footers,” said Jones.

The junior class represents the biggest class of the 20-21 Zephs, and both Bryce Bashore and Ian Werner are key components in that mix. Werner was the staring point guard, and the two got a ton of varsity minutes last season, with Bashore often playing the point as well. They’ll be counted on to be the driving forces in the Zephyrs backcourt this season. Jones said that the pair will perform the lion’s share of the ball handling this season.

The backcourt will also feature Gilbert, while sophomore Ray Jackson is also expected to see a lot of playing time, said Jones. Jones said that Jackson possesses athletic skills that will make him a strong candidate who can both score and defend. That junior class also includes Saed who is a newcomer to varsity basketball. Saed stands 6-5 and will be a big presence inside for a team that’s perennially had a size disadvantage down low. Jones said that Saed, who was an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference second team All-Star at tackle, has adjusted well to the hardwood.

“He’s doing a really nice job right now,” said Jones.

The team will also get contributions from juniors Alexander Derkits and Torrey Tyson and freshman Luke Keppel.

With the news that the season would be delayed, word also came down that the league schedule would be trimmed to 10 games for basketball and wrestling. However, the PIAA announced that even teams eliminated from district and state tournament consideration could still play games through March 27, which is the date the PIAA’s basketball tournament will end in Hershey.

Luke Gilbert is a key returning playing for the boys team.