Weekly Feature



2005-11-30 / Sports

Experience, inside presence to help South’s section title chances

Boys Basketball
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

Williamsville South’s P.J. Coppola heads up the floor while 2005 South graduate Steve Allen defends during practice last Friday. Photo by John Rusac Williamsville South’s P.J. Coppola heads up the floor while 2005 South graduate Steve Allen defends during practice last Friday. Photo by John Rusac It’s way too early to predict how Williamsville South will finish in ECIC Division III or the Section VI Tournament but Billies head coach Al Monaco sure is liking what he’s seen so far out of this year’s group.

“Right now, I have a very good feeling,” said Monaco.

And why shouldn’t he? Monaco returns three starters from last year’s team — Chris O’Connell, Adrian Wood, and Frank Pieri plus their sixth man, now starter James DeVaughn. Not counting this season, the four have combined for 9½ years of varsity experience. He also finally has an inside presence in 5-foot-10, 240-pound forward Tyron Hoskin who should complement 6-foot-3 Pieri at center.

In addition, South placed an impressive third at the Chestatee Tournament in Gainesville, Ga., their first ever games out of New York State. There, Monaco saw his team’s biggest strength.

“They have outstanding chemistry,” said Monaco. “Within a few games, they already know their roles. Most of these kids play on the same volleyball, baseball, and basketball teams at South so they’ve been together for years. They’re a great group of kids to be around.”

Patrick Hines brings size inside for Williamsville East this season. Photo by Joe Eberle Patrick Hines brings size inside for Williamsville East this season. Photo by Joe Eberle It all starts for South at point guard led by senior captain O’Connell, who averaged 10 points and six assists last season. It is his fourth year starting at the position.

“At the Chestatee Tournament, I really saw the value of having a senior point guard,” said Monaco. “Teams couldn’t handle our full court pressure because of him. He’s confident and has great court vision. He just sees everything.”

South’s league schedule hasn’t even opened up yet and O’Connell has already broken the 20-year old school record for career assists, picking up 18 at the Chestatee Tournament to give him 336. Dave Niland, coach of Division III Penn State Behrend, held the old record of 335 since 1985.

Once O’Connell starts moving the ball in transition, he probably will distribute it to guards DeVaughn and Wood on the wing. DeVaughn, a senior captain, started half of South’s games last year and averaged 10 points a game. Wood started every game last year as a sophomore and averaged 11 points. The two combined for 78 points in the Chestatee Tournament.

“Wood and DeVaughn are the same type of player,” said Monaco. “On the court, they have unbelievable speed and on defense, they get in your face. Having both on the opposite wings could make it a tough matchup for other teams.”

Down low, Monaco said Hoskin earned himself a starting job in preseason.

“He was a reserve for us last year and really saw limited action,” said Monaco. “He played some AAU ball and can rebound.”

Pieri averaged seven points and five rebounds per game last year.

“He’s a legitimate big man for us now,” said Monaco. “I think Pieri and Hoskin gives us other options. I don’t think we’re going to have to rely on the three-point shot as much as we have in past years.”

The team’s sixth man should be Charles Alexander, a 6-foot-1 senior guard transfer from McKinley High School.

“He’s in the mold of DeVaughn and Wood,” said Monaco. “He’s very athletic and gives us depth.”

Other reserves who should contribute are senior Jon LiSacchi, O’Connell’s backup who hit a crucial 12-foot jumper in the Chestatee Tournament, senior forward Josh Thomas, another solid three-point shooter, senior guard and tough defender Ryan Lynch, and 6-foot-4 junior Spencer McIntyre, the team’s best three-point shooter, Monaco said.

Players up from junior varsity are juniors McIntyre, forwards Dan Lynch and Pat Pidgeon, and guards Scott Steimer, P.J. Coppola, and Tyler Tucker.

South finished 13-8 overall last year, 9-3 in ECIC III, and were eliminated by Olean in the Section VI Class ‘B’ quarterfinals. South opens at 6 p.m. Thursday versus St. Francis in the Lake Shore Lions Tournament at Frontier High School.

South will also host the second annual Williamsville South Rotary Tournament on Dec. 29 and 30. South plays Fredonia at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 and plays the winner of Williamsville North-Lake Shore on Dec. 30. Last year, South defeated North in the finals.

South 2005 Schedule
12-1 Lake Shore Lions Tourn. at
Frontier, St Francis.......... 6 p.m.
12-3 Lake Shore Lions Tourn. at
Frontier,   Hamburg   or   Frontier
TBA
12-7 at Timon ............... 7:30 p.m.
12-13 at Starpoint ............. 7 p.m.
12-16 Tonawanda......... 7:30 p.m.
12-22 at Maryvale ........ 7:30 p.m.
12-29 Will. South Rotary Tourn.
Fredonia ......................... 7:30 p.m.
12-30 Will. South Rotary Tourn.
vs. North or Lake Shore .... TBA
1-4 Cheektowaga ......... 7:30 p.m.
1-6 at Springville.......... 7:30 p.m.
1-12 Depew................... 7:30 p.m.
1-20 Starpoint............... 7:30 p.m.
1-27 at Tonawanda ...... 6:30 p.m.
1-31 Maryvale ............... 7:30 p.m.
2-3 at Cheektowaga .... 6:30 p.m.
2-8 Springville .............. 7:30 p.m.
2-10 at East .................. 7:30 p.m.
2-14 at Depew .............. 7:30 p.m.

Williamsville East

It’s going to have to be a total team effort for the Flames to have success this season.

“I think it was the first time in 12 years last year that we lost in the quarterfinals of sectionals,” said East head coach Dennis Belote.

“We have no superstars on this team. If we’re going to win this year, we need to play good defense.”

East will also have to find someone with a scoring touch as Tom Hausler (averaged 21 points) graduated. However, several players on this year’s roster did play between 50-60 games in summer leagues. Ten players also went to a two-day summer basketball camp at St. Bonaventure University.

Captains Steve Kaiser (6-0, 165 pounds, point guard), Patrick Hines (6-foot-5, 180 pounds, forward), Steve Kanutsu (6-foot-5, 200 pounds, forward), and Andy Heim (6-0, 175 pounds, guard) are the top four returning players.

“Steve (Kaiser) brings speed and is a good three-point shooter,” said Belote. “Pat has good speed and has a nice turnaround jump hook. Steve (Kanutsu) can play inside or outside. Andy is a real strong kid who can handle the ball as an off guard or forward.”

Belote said sophomore Brian Wallden (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) would probably start at center. Wallden started on junior varsity last year.

The team’s sixth man could be junior Rick Silvestri (6-foot-2, 170 pounds).

“He can shoot, rebound, and cut to the basket,” said Belote. “He has really improved and worked hard in those summer leagues.”

Other kids who should contribute are senior forwards Nick Klein (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) and Kamil Patel (6-foot, 150 pounds), senior guard David Convertini (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), and junior guard Adam Kausch (5-foot-10, 165 pounds). All four were on last year’s team.

Juniors Nick Kanutsu (guard), Mike Rath (guard/forward), Mike Ferguson (forward), and Justin Andreozzi (guard) are up from JV.

East opened Tuesday versus Williamsville North but results were unavailable before The Bee went to press. They play Grover Cleveland at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Sweet Home Tip-off Tournament.

East 2005 Schedule
12-1 Sweet Home Tip-Off Tourn.
Grover Cleveland.............. 6 p.m.
12-3 at Sweet Home Tip-Off Tourn
Sweet Home or Niagara-Wheatfield.
        ....................................... TBA
12-9 at Timon ............... 7:30 p.m.
12-13 Amherst .............. 7:30 p.m.
12-22 Lake Shore......... 7:30 p.m.
12-28   at   Clarence   Tourn   vs.
Clarence. ...................... 7:30 p.m..
12-29 at Clarence Tourn......... Niagara
      Wheatfield or Riverside TBA
1-3 Iroquois................... 7:30 p.m.

1-6 Hamburg................. 7:30 p.m.
1-12 at Pioneer............. 7:30 p.m.
1-17 at W.S. East.......... 7:30 p.m.
1-20 at Amherst ........... 7:30 p.m.
1-24 at St. Joe’s............ 7:30 p.m.
1-31 at Lake Shore ...... 7:30 p.m.
2-3 at Iroquois.............. 6:30 p.m.
2-9 at Hamburg ............ 7:30 p.m.
2-10 South..................... 7:30 p.m.
2-14 Pioneer ................. 7:30 p.m.
2-17 W.S. East .............. 7:30 p.m.

Williamsville North

All of the pieces are there this season for Williamsville North to have success.

They have experience (two of three top players are entering third years on team), size (three players over 6-foot-3), and quickness.

“Certainly on paper, it looks like we have everything to compete,” said North head coach Chuck Swierski. “It will be a matter of gelling everyone. They all like to play the game.”

Rob Gronkowski (6-foot-6, 247-pounds) leads the charge inside. Already billed as one of the top tight ends in the country for football, Gronkowski is a freak of nature, said Swierski, benching 225 pounds 17 times, running a 4.74 40-yard dash, and leaping 32 inches vertical from a standing position. An All-Bee second team selection, he dumped 31 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the Spartans’ Section VI Class ‘AA’ quarterfinal playoff loss last year to Riverside.

“He changes a game,” Swierski said. “He’s the most dominant player that I’ve seen in my three years of coaching varsity. Nobody can guard him one on one.”

Gronkowski, an ECIC I first team all-star, averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds as a sophomore and was double-teamed all the time, said Swierski.

“When he gets doubled on, that opens it up for other guys to step up,” he said.

Those players include Mike Berkun and Max Lipsitz. Berkun ran the point last year and should be even better this year. Swierski said Berkun played this past summer with several Niagara Falls players on an AAU travel team.

“He was matched up with (Niagara Falls’) Jonathan Flynn three times a week so he should be stronger just from that,” said Swierski.

Berkun finished with 129 assists last year, the second highest single-season total in school history. He is a team captain.

Lipsitz, a 6-foot-7 power forward headed to Penn State University on a full volleyball scholarship, should use his height as a top shot blocker, Swierski said. Lipsitz averaged 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds last year.

“He will help control the middle of the floor and the tempo of the game,” said Swierski.

The other two starting positions will be filled on a game to game basis based on the matchup.

If North goes big, Swierski said 6-foot-4 junior Ryan Young can be inserted. If a quicker lineup is needed, then seniors T.J. Giles and John Markey will go in.

“Ryan is versatile and works well with Max and Rob,” said Swierski. “Markey is our best three-point shooter. When he’s on, forget about it. Giles is our best fill in the blank player. He’s not great at everything but does a lot of things well.”

Other players who should contribute are junior Alex Calderon, who was the starting point guard on junior varsity last year and junior small forward Zach Boron.

North opened its season Tuesday at Williamsville East but results were unavailable before The Bee went to press. They play in the Al Pastor Tournament on Dec. 6 versus Canisius and against Henninger of Rochester at the Cataract Classic at Niagara Falls on Dec. 10. They face Lake Shore in the first round of the Williamsville South Rotary Tournament on Dec. 28.

North 2005 Schedule
12-6 at Daemen College versus
Canisius ......................... 6:45 p.m.
12-8 or 12-9 Tournament .... TBA
12-10   at   Niagara   Falls   High
School versus Henninger .... 1:30
PM
12-13 at Jamestown .... 7:30 p.m.
12-16 Sweet Home ...... 7:30 p.m.
12-22 Frontier............... 7:30 p.m.
12-28 Williamsville South Rotary
Holiday Tourn. vs. Lake Shore 6
p.m.
12-29 at South tourn. South or
Fredonia ................................ TBA
1-3 at W.S. West ........... 7:30 p.m.
1-6 Lancaster................ 7:30 p.m.
1-13 at Clarence........... 7:30 p.m.
1-17 Orchard Park....... 7:30 p.m.
1-20 Jamestown ........... 7:30 p.m.
1-26 at Sweet Home.... 7:30 p.m.
1-31 at Frontier............ 7:30 p.m.
2-3 W.S. West................ 7:30 p.m.
2-9 at Lancaster ........... 7:30 p.m.
2-14 Clarence ............... 7:30 p.m.
2-17 at Orchard Park .. 7:30 p.m.
e-mail: pnagy@beenews.com

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