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S-GI varsity basketball team explains its strategy and expectations for this upcoming season

IN THE PAINT — The Springville-Griffith Institute varsity basketball team gets ready to rumble. Pictured, back row, from left: Coach Frank Noeson, Ethan Benz, Kevin Zabawa, Bobby Fisher, Greg Beatty and Brian Seneca. Front row, from left: Adam Wolfley, Bill Dickinson, Nate Wolcott and Brian Johnson. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — Basketball season is underway and the Springville-Griffith Institute boys varsity basketball team took the court Nov. 5 for its first practice. After a hiatus, Coach Frank Noeson returned as coach, this year.

During the past couple of years, S-GI has competed against some players that have gone on to play at the college level. Thad Weir, of East Aurora, graduated in 2009 and is now playing at St. John Fisher University in Rochester. Luke Haskel graduated from Pioneer in 2009 and went on to play at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Blair Estarfaa graduated from Maryvale in 2011 and is now playing at Medaille College.

Most recently, Stan Weir, who played at East Aurora last season, signed to play at the State University of New York at Buffalo, this season. Weir led East Aurora to a Section VI championship, last season, before that team fell to Bishop Kearney in the Far West Regionals. Amherst returns a first team all-star from last season in Jonathon Belton and East Aurora returns Brandon Cox, who made second team, last season.

“Division III in basketball is always one of the strongest, most competitive divisions,” said Noeson. “Amherst, East Aurora and Cheektowaga are looking strong, this year. Maryvale and Depew always have solid programs, as well. There’s no division game that isn’t difficult.”

This season, Springville returns six players with varsity experience. Billy Dickinson and Will Lawton are two senior guards who saw playing time, last season. Dickinson is coming off a football season in which he led the football team to a trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium, rallying off five straight wins, after a 0 – 4 start. Dickinson was second on the basketball team in 3-pointers made, last season.

“I like to catch and shoot a lot,” Dickinson said. “I don’t really have the size to hang and bang, in the paint. I’m much better on the perimeter, pulling up for a midranger or spotting up from three.”

Dickinson and Lawton will lead a group of five guards, including juniors Nate Wolcott and Adam Wolfley. Wolcott and Wolfley were the starting guards on the junior varsity team.

“The speed on varsity is a lot faster,” Wolfley said. “It takes a little time to get used to, but you once you get into the flow of the game, it’s just basketball.”

The Griffins graduated three starters, from last season, including the team’s top two scorers, Hunter Berry and Cody Schweickert. Berry scored more than 15 points, numerous times, last season, including dropping 30 against Eden. Noeson said he wants to have the whole team the focal point of the offense, this year.

“All 10 of our guys will be the focal point of the offense, this year,” the coach explained. “We have no true scorer that is a guarantee. Wins this year, for us, will come when all 10 guys get into the book and more importantly, the other stat columns, like rebounding, assists, deflections, steals and just overall, hard-nosed defense. There will be no relying on one player. Each player has to contribute, on a nightly basis, for us to be successful.”

Leading the post players will be Brian Seneca, a returning starting player from last year, when he led the team in blocks. Seneca, at 6 feet, 1 inch, has exceptional timing when it comes to blocking shots, according to Dickinson.

“All of our post players will offer 110 percent, on every possession we will have,” Seneca said. “We don’t have the size, for sure, but we will have more hustle and better ambition [than our opponents]. One thing we need to focus on is boxing out. Since we don’t have the size, we need to focus on the little things.”

Noeson also said he thinks that his post players have a lot more to offer, other than size. He noted that their abilities will be a “mismatch” for opponents.

“Our post players, this year, are lacking some height,” Noeson said. “By no means does this lack of height mean lack of strength or determination. We don’t have any one guy that we can just put at the post and dump it in, consistently.”

“Our guys are going to need to work hard for position and be smart about when to look for it. We’ll be setting a lot of screens and probably cause some defenses to have to switch, allowing us to seal and get some mismatches. We’re going to play a bit more basketball away from the basket this year, too. Some of our looks have four or all five guys, on the perimeter,” he said.

Noeson added that the Griffs are going to try to focus on transition offense, this year. Getting out and running is going to be a focal point of the Griffs offense, this season, according to the coach. Transition offense is making stops or creating turnovers, on the defense end, and then immediately pushing the ball down the court, also know as a long outlet pass, creating a numbers game.

“We’re going to try to focus on transition offense, this year.” Noeson said. “We have some fast, instinctive players, who I think can get out and run. We can’t let defenses, whether it is man or zone, get back and be ready for us. Then, if we can’t get any looks in transition, we’ll get into our offensive sets,” he said.

“Like I mentioned before, we’d like to use our court to more of an advantage, this year,” he added. “The same quickness and instinctive play should allow us to put some pressure on the ball, in the back court. Just like not allowing a defense to get set up, our goal is to create some panic and take some time away from opposing offenses getting into their sets.”

According to junior guard Nate Wolcott, this type of system fits the players’ abilities. It does not demand size and emphasizes intangibles like effort.

“I think it fits right in for our team, especially since we don’t have the greatest size,” Wolcott said. “We’re going to use our quickness, determination and hustle to our advantage. You can’t put a number or size on effort.”

The system will involve all five players playing a variety of positions.

“Positioning, at the high school level, has a lot more grey area in it than, say, at the collegiate level or obviously pro,” Noeson said.

“We have a unique team, in that a lot of our guys can both handle the ball a bit away from the basket and aren’t uncomfortable in the paint. We do have a couple of point guards and two guards who will spend most of their time setting things up for others, but every player will be asked to play a variety of positions, this year.”

Junior Greg Beatty added that the team will be using an “open” offense, having four or five guys on the perimeter. Beatty played varsity as a sophomore, last season, playing a hybrid forward, which is played close and away from the basket, at times. Beatty explained that this offense helps against certain teams.

“It opens a lot of things inside, when we face bigger teams,” he explained. “If we spread them out, we can attack with our speed and increases our chances.”

S-GI will look to rebound, this season, after going winless in the division, a year ago.

“The expectations for this season are to be a lot more competitive in Division II than in the past few years,” the coach said.

“We’ve struggled to get division wins, both at home and away. This year, we’d like to use our small home court to more of an advantage, and on the road, play real aggressive and strong, in the first few minutes, not to get behind early.”
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