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Basketball Preview: Bulldogs look to keep getting better, using inside play

HAMBURG WITH PLENTY OF SIZE — Senior Jeremiah Bill is one of three players in the post returning to this year’s team, after playing significant minutes last season. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Hamburg was already planning to run its game through the inside and lean on its size this season, considering the talent the boys basketball team brings back in the post.

Add some inexperience in this year’s backcourt to the equation and it has become a no-brainer.

“We’ve been making the point, to go through the inside,” said Hamburg head coach Tim Brueckl, who would like to see his team take another step forward after finishing 9-10 last year, falling in a home Class A-1 quarterfinal to Hutch Tech. “The guards have to do a good job to get them the ball.”

Returning starters in the front court are senior Jeremiah Bill, who Brueckl said, at 6-foot-5, 270-pounds is in good position in the post almost every time down the court, and 6-foot-3 Griffin Ryan, who his coach calls a “special player.”

Ryan can play on the outside or go to the inside where Brueckl noted the senior plays a few inches bigger than his actual height. The senior three-year starter led the team last season, averaging 12.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. Bill, who’s a Trench Trophy finalist as a lineman on the football team, added 8 points and 6 rebounds as a junior.

Also on a roster that includes six players 6-2 and taller is junior Joe DeGrood, a tough 6-1 forward who came off the bench to help inside last season. Brandon Pierce will start at small forward, and provide more length at 6-foot-6, along with the ability to play on the perimeter. Junior Doug Horbachewski, at 6-foot-4, should also contribute in the interior, after helping Hamburg win a boys volleyball title this fall.

Senior Tim Kane, who returned to basketball last season after taking a few years off, will be Hamburg’s most experienced player in the backcourt. Bruckl said Kane has continued to develop his game and will move to the point, to replace the graduated Kyle Violanti. Hamburg also graduated Andrew Sardinia, one of its top scorers, who played guard and forward.

“We’ve graduated a lot of our guards so we have to have the guys now there focus on defending and handling the pressure and then getting it inside,” Brueckl said. “We’ll be in most of our games because of our size.”

After that, the coach said the team is a bit unfounded in the backcourt, though sophomore Brendan Ryan, Griffin’s brother, who is the projected starter at the shooting guard, and juniors Caleb Wood and Kyle Munro have shown their potential. Wood may be the team’s best pure shooter and Munro will help at the point, Brueckl said. Junior Mark Myles should also see some time at guard.

“Brendan has been doing a good job, but we’ll have some growing pains having a sophomore with the ball in his hands,” Brueckl noted. “We just need to get him to limit his mistakes.”

With this probably being Brueckl’s deepest team yet, the sixth-year head coach looks to turn the corner and contend for a ECIC II division title and get to Buffalo State for the Class A-1 semifinals.

Coming off a 6-6 division season, the Bulldogs had a chance to advance in sectional play but fell in a home quarterfinal, after an opening round bye.

“We know we let a chance on our home court to get to Buff. State slip away last year,” Brueckl said. “Winning is now the expectation, They’re starting to learn that. Now, we expect to get to a championship level.”

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