Coming off consecutive division titles, Tonawanda looks to repeat that feat in ECIC IV without leading scorer Jesse Lalka. (File photo)Warriors look for three-peat, minus Lalka
Can the Warriors three-peat? It’s a question Tonawanda will hear early and often during the 2012-13 season after winning back-to-back ECIC Division IV championships the past two seasons.
Tonawanda, which saw its season end at Buffalo State College in the sectional semifinals two years in a row, are reloaded and ready to do whatever it takes to get over that hurdle and make it to the title game.
The biggest hole in the lineup came in the form of losing all-time leading scorer Jesse Lalka, but the Warriors are far from a one-trick pony.
Leading the way will be seniors Clayton Hess and Tyler Hughes, who, along with junior point guard Ben Stich, gives the Warriors three reliable returning starters.
Coach Hank Hughes is confident that his team can maintain their level of excellence, even if it has a bit of a different look.
“Maybe a little bit of a different style, too,” coach Hughes added. “I think we could usually get in half-court sets and Jesse and Clayton could usually just dominate. This group looks like they work really hard on defense, get up and pressure you and look for runs, so we’ve kind of changed our style a tad to fit our personnel.”
All eyes will no doubt be on Hess as the onus of scoring will fall mainly on his shoulders. But Hess’ challenge will be how he can contend with opponents throwing every kind of defensive scheme they can think of to try and stop him.
Knowing full-well he will be drawing more attention than ever before, Hess is prepared for whatever opponents have on tap.
“Well if there’s two or three guys on me, there’s going to be someone open, obviously,” Hess said with a grin. “So it’s going to be my job to find them. Then again, we’ve got to step up and play like a team. This is not going to be just about me, it’s about the whole team. Everybody’s doing a great job stepping up, so hopefully everybody can score and play well.”
The Warriors also graduated starter Jake Spencer, as well as Charles Burtch, Andy Smith, and Marc Hurst, all of whom gave solid minutes off the bench.
Tonawanda returns senior Nick Pullo, who will serve as a captain along with Hess and Hughes, and junior forward Connor Pumm. At 6-foot-4 Pumm provides the presence of another big body in the post who, in time, should be able to draw attention and afford Hess more open looks.
Pumm has also brought that same hard-nosed, gritty style that made Kyle Schroeder so valuable during his days as a Warrior. While replacing Lalka is far from easy, Hess feels that Pumm and sophomore Tristan Boling are both valuable pieces of the puzzle that can help the team go forward.
“Jesse is a very big (piece) to replace,” Hess said. “He’s a great player, probably one of the best players Tonawanda will ever see. Tristan has come in and done a great job to replace him; he’s working his butt off. Connor is doing a great job, playing good defense, rebounding and getting a few points.”
Coach Hughes said that after two scrimmages, he too was very impressed by what he saw from Pumm, Boling and Tyler Hughes.
Sophomore Larenz Jefferson, also new to varsity, is another big body who can be effective in the paint hauling in rebounds. Hughes is hopeful that Jefferson can become more and more of a factor as he acclimates himself to the speed of the varsity game.
With Lalka no longer there to make the big shot, Hughes said now the five on the floor will be more of a balanced unit which will allow everyone to become more involved.
“I like our defensive intensity,” Hughes said of what his team has shown during scrimmages. “We’ve really stepped it up…We’re just so tough — taking charges and being scrappy. That’s just nice to see.”
Zach El-Sharif and Riley Gardner also return, while William Galley, Alex George, Jake Haynes and Paul Palladino are varsity newcomers.THS girls hoops with new gameplan to repeat success
by Dave Ricci,
With success there comes greater expectations. Coming off winning the first league title in the history of the program, the Tonawanda Warriors girls basketball team knows full-well that the bar has been raised for the 2012-13 season.
“We’ve talked about that since the beginning (of tryouts). We don’t want to go downhill,” coach Jay Hall said after a Nov. 23 scrimmage against Kenmore East.
Leading the way for the Warriors will be co-captains Joanna McCarthy, a senior forward, and Kalyn Compeau (junior/guard), and junior point guard Alanna Herne.
All returning starters, McCarthy, Compeau, and Herne were key cogs in last year’s ECIC Division IV championship team and know the level of hard work and dedication that needs to be put forth to continue the program’s winning ways.
“We have a solid team,” Compeau said. “We have a good starting five and we have a couple people that can sub in and fill in a spot just like the starting five would.”
Graduating 6-footers Tina Partridge and Kendra O’Connor, the Warriors enter the new campaign with a bit of a different look. Knowing they don’t have the size to pound the ball inside as they’ve had the last couple of seasons, the Warriors will now rely more on the speed and ball handling skills of their guards to create a more fast-paced offensive attack.
“I actually like the press and run instead of setting it up and throwing it up,” Hall said. “So that’s what we’re going to do this year; we’re just going to keep on working on pressing.”
The Warriors lose the outside shooting of Heather Heim, but Compeau and Herne can both hit the 3-pointer with consistency, and the addition of sophomore Haley Snyder gives Tonawanda the benefit of another guard who can handle the ball. Hall now also has the option to put Compeau at forward if need be.
“Obviously we really want to win again,” McCarthy said. “I think we have a lot of potential this year; we’re still in the running. Last year, I think our defense is what won games for us. So we need to keep our defense up, keep taking shots when we get the opportunity and play strong defense. That’s what’s going to win games.”
Senior Ashley Kowalcyk returns to the team after missing last year. Kowalcyk, who brought a much-needed burst of energy to the varsity when she was called-up as a sophomore, will provide speed, toughness and her defense should replace the loss of Kila Gilcart who graduated.
Hall will also be counting on Savanna Baughman to play a bigger role and help pick up some of the scoring slack now that Partridge is gone. While change is the nature of the beast in scholastic sports, the one constant is a solid work ethic.
McCarthy believes “drive” is the common thread that connects this year’s and last season’s team.
“Everybody’s got that drive,” she said. “Everybody wants to win. (There’s) very competitive girls on the team. We all push each other to make each other better.”
Alexandra Moore, Juliana Tirone, Paige Hill, Ashley Ostrowski, Sam Gehm, Brittany Slater, and Liz Carlson round out the roster.