WHS boys fall to Allen
After losing the season opener at J. Milo Sewards gym, the Whitehall boys basketball team looked to gain the equalizer on their home court Tuesday night.
The Zephyrs lost 64-41 last Saturday, the first game of their home-and-home series against the Canaries.
On Tuesday, they tried to even their record as they combined their home opener with senior night, recognizing Luke Gilbert, Zackary Hartman, Matthew Lisicky and Matthew Snyder. However, the Canaries were able to complete the sweep, defeating Whitehall 77-48.
Head coach Jeff Jones said that he liked some things about the game, flashes where they did some good things. While that was the case, especially at the start of the third quarter when a slew of their seniors started to heat up from the floor, including two treys from Gilbert, and buckets from Snyder and Lisicky that cut a chunk out of the Canaries lead, he still feels they’re still trying to find points.
“After the first two games, that’s definitely my main concern,” he said.
At the start of the game, they had some opportunities but couldn’t convert in close. They scored 19 points in the first half, and nearly all of those buckets were scored a few feet away from the basket. Tommy Buskirk’s jumper from the top of the key served as their only make from a distance.
That began to change in the second half as they started to drain more baskets from the perimeter, but Allen’s three-headed monster of Nate Ellis, Manny Ozuna, and Anthony Rondon combined for 50 points to thwart any chance of a Zephyr comeback in the third.
Ellis did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 12 points, including two triples. At one point he ran off nine consecutive points for the Canaries, extending their lead 26-15 midway through the second quarter.
Ozuna did most of his damage in the second half, scoring eight points, while Rondon was a beast on the baseline, setting up in the corner and launching threes, nailing three of them that helped pave the way for the win.
Jones said that he felt they needed to tighten up their transition defense. That’s a tough task against Allen who he said gets up and down the floor with the best of them in the Lehigh Valley.
“They push the ball ahead really fast, and they got a bunch of transition points,” said Jones.
And once they set up in the half court, he said that they have players who can get around the defenders or shoot deep, making them tough to guard. Their ability to hit from deep was born out by the seven three-pointers they splashed through the nets.
“They’re good shooters,” said Jones.
He also said that if you go out to challenge those shooters, they simply go around and drive to the basket. It’s a pick your poison type of team.
“We held back a little bit and they made threes,” said Jones.
The Zephyrs will need to rely on strong senior leadership, and one of those players is Gilbert. He’s been through four years of Lehigh Valley Conference competition and knows what it takes to earn a victory.
Gilbert said that last two games have been rough because they haven’t been in the gym a lot as a team. He understands that cohesiveness is a big part of success, and without the trip to Loyalsock Tourney to tip off the season which also served as a bonding experience, it’s been a challenge to create that cohesion.
Right now they need to find that cohesion despite what’s happening around them. And that begins with believing in themselves.
“We have to get confidence in ourselves to do better this year,” said Gilbert.
Without those shared experiences, including those long bus rides, Gilbert said that they need to find other avenues.
“We just have to bond together at practice more, and push each other more to build that team chemistry,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert believes their struggles from the field could be attributed to playing too fast. He said that they needed to slow down, something that they accomplished in the second half.
“That opened up more shots,” he said.
Gilbert finished with six points, while Tommy Buskirk and Damonte Foreman each scored eight to pace the Zephs. Additionally, Alex Derkits had seven points, while Ian Werner and Snyder both netted five.
Confidence was also at the forefront of Jones’ assessment in their jump shooting.
“That’s something that has to evolve and develop,” said Jones. “That starts at practice when you get the confidence that you’re willing to take the shot.”
He said that they need to be a threat, and that’s something that he hopes will grow as the season progresses.
He said that they’re still trying to figure things out, using a variety of players to see what meshes the best. He’s also subbing quicker, in large part because of the masks the players must wear when on the floor.
“It’s not easy running up and down the floor with masks on like these kids do,” said Jones.
It’s contributed to more players needing a blow, and that’s another challenge.
The Zephs will next meet Parkland in the home-and-home format.