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Basketball Preview: Winning becomes an expectation for Hamburg program

The 2012-13 Hamburg High School varsity boys basketball team includes, from left, first row: Kyle Munro, Anthony Guzzetta, Tim Kane, Kyle Violanti and Matt Odre. Second row: Joe DeGrood, Bryce Hite, Jeremiah Bill, Brandon Pierce, Robbie Miller, Griffin Ryan and Andrew Sardinia.

Winning isn’t just a hope anymore for Hamburg; it’s becoming an expectation. Last season’s team took another stride toward going from feeling satisfied with just winning here and there to competing game in and out.

In finishing 10-10 last year, which included an opening round playoff game win, Hamburg doubled its win total from the past two seasons prior. For the most part, the Bulldogs played with each of its ECIC Division II foes, even beating perennial-power Williamsville South, before a disappointing lopsided loss to Williamsville East in the Class A-1 quarterfinals.

The type of effort Hamburg head coach Tim Brueckl saw last season signified a major step forward for the program, one he believes will help carry this year’s team, despite Hamburg losing its top scorer that past two seasons.

“We were a couple of bounces away from being at 12 or 13 wins,” said Brueckl, entering his fifth season as Hamburg’s head coach. “In games that we did lose, we were right there in most of them. They have the mentality now that they can win a lot of games and they expect to win games. We’ve been kind of drilling it into them the importance of work ethic. We feel like we’ve got the talent.”

Without Nick Benningfield, Hamburg will no longer have a go-to scorer, but that could wind up working in its favor. Brueckl looks to last year’s success of rival Frontier, which finished 16-4, as an example. After losing its top scorer from the previous two seasons, Frontier bought into the team concept and wound up playing at Buffalo State in Class AA.

Hamburg will have back three of the five players that ended last season as starters. Brueckl will also look to a deeper group to step up and balance out the offensive output.

“Anytime you lose one of the top 15 scorers in school history, it’s a tough void to fill, but these guys know they may not have a top scorer, but they have four or five guys with the potential to put in 14 or 15 on any given night,” Brueckl said. “Hopefully, we’re a little more team oriented and not looking to get the ball to one guy.”

The Bulldogs biggest contributors back from last season are senior guard Kyle Violanti and junior power forward Griffin Ryan.

The athletic Ryan averaged 6.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, along with finishing second on the team with 51 steals. The 6-foot-1 forward, who Brueckl said plays much bigger than his size, should only be better after playing AAU this summer.

Violanti, who was third on the team with seven points per game and led Hamburg with 70 assists and 62 steals, will move from a shooting guard to the point replacing Tom Lipomi. “He’s been doing a really good job with it and sees the court very well,” Brueckl said of Violanti.
Andrew Sardinia is expected to be a big part of the Hamburg offense, as is Jeremiah Bill who looks on as the senior drives to the basket last season. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Brueckl believes senior third-year varsity player Andrew Sardinia, who broke into the starting lineup toward the end of last season, should also play a big role in the offense. After having his past two seasons cut short by injury, Sardinia gave a hint of what was ahead with his play last year after coming back from a nagging knee injury.

After seeing varsity time last year as a sophomore, Jeremiah Bill will step into a bigger role as Hamburg’s big man in the middle. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder got stronger physically and with his inside play. Sophomore Joe DeGrood, who joined Bill as a starting offensive lineman on the football team, will help create a formidable group down low for Hamburg.

Improved seniors who will also see more time on the floor are Matt Odre and Tony Guzzetta. Odre can shoot, drive to the basket and defend, while Guzzetta should be one of Hamburg’s top shooters on the perimeter.

“It’s a different group for me than I’m used,” Brueckl noted. “We’ve always had a big guy or two but this year having the two juniors at forward everything should go through them and they’re going to make guys like Guzzetta, Odre, Sardinia and Violanti even better.”

Also for Hamburg, up-and-coming sophomore Kyle Monroe and gritty junior Timmy Kane will add depth at guard, while 6-foot-5 Brandon Pierce and 6-foot-3 Bryce Hite and Robby Miller, all juniors, will help up front.

Sweet Home moves back into ECIC I and should be a threat in the division, along with Iroquois and Williamsville South. Williamsville East lost some quality players to graduation, but remains a threat. “Our position is that there are five teams that can beat each other on any given night,” Brueckl said. “I don’t think that there is any reason why we we’re not in the thick of it.”

Hamburg boys 2012-13 Schedule
Tues., Dec. 4     Lions Club Tourney
at Frontier                           7:30 pm
Friday, Dec. 7     Lions Club Tourney
consolation/championship          6, 7:30 pm
Tues, Dec. 18 vs Iroquois              7:30 pm
Thur., Dec. 20 at Starpoint              6:30 pm
Thur., Dec. 27 Maryvale Christmas Tourney     
vs Cleveland Hill               5:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 28 Maryvale Tourney    TBA
Fri., Jan. 4 vs. Orchard Park         7:30 pm
Mon., Jan. 7 vs. W.S. East              7:30 pm
Fri., Jan, 11 at Will. South              7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 15 at Will East              7:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 17 at Sweet Home      7:30 pm
Fri., Jan. 25 at Iroquois              6:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 29 vs. Starpoint              7:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 31 at W.S. East              6:30 pm
Mon., Feb. 4 vs. Will. South        7:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 8 vs. Will. East              7:30 pm
Tues., Feb. 12 vs. Sweet Home    7:30 pm
Thur., Feb. 14 at Lake Shor2        6:30 pm

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