Ephrata looking to increase win total in ’12-’13
Ephrata took its share of lumps a season ago, going 3-18 on the year which included a 2-14 section season. But while the wins came few and far between, there was some definite progress made under first-year Head Coach Jason Coletti, who is back for his second season at the helm.
And this season, Coletti is looking for his team to continue the upward spiral and be a factor once again in Section Two. While they graduated their top two scorers from a year ago in Brian Neff (10.9) and Jeremy Franck (8.8), the Mounts have several key players returning, led by point guard Matt Herbener (4.5) and 6-2 forward Evan Radcliffe (6.8), who were part of that progress of a year ago and are eager to take that next step.
And while depth and a lack of height are concerns, Ephrata should be able to put a team on the floor each night that competes and one that is a little more versed in Coletti’s system than a year ago.
Recently, Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth had a chance to discuss the upcoming season with Coletti. The following is a transcript of their conversation:
Todd Ruth: What are your early impressions of your team after a week and a half of practice?
Jason Coletti: I’ve been very happy with them. We are definitely further along this year than last year, just because we have been together for a whole year. Just calling out a drill or a play at practice and they automatically know what it is. We don’t have to teach it, certainly we review it but they already have a good grasp of everything. We are definitely further along and the practices have been much better. It’s faster paced and things have been going very well and they work extremely hard.
The older guys are already helping out the younger guys, which is neat to see. It’s neat to see those guys taking the leadership roles and teaching them as we are going. You know they’ve learned it, and now they are helping the other guys out. We have good numbers this year. We got 20 kids on varsity and JV which is big because now we can practice five on five, varsity against varsity…That is so much nicer than having to go against a bunch of young kids who really don’t know what they are doing yet. It’s made a big difference.
TR: Last year it seemed to take awhile for them to get a grasp of what you were trying to do. When did you feel they finally started to turn the corner?
JC: To be honest it took maybe to the middle of the season to three-quarters through until we kind of almost felt comfortable with one another. They always worked hard and always hustled and did all that good stuff but they didn’t really grasp it until then. It took awhile to kind of grasp everything that we were doing. Everything was obviously new so the learning curve was pretty steep. That’s why this year is flowing much better. Having really good senior leadership in Evan Radcliffe and Matt Herbener definitely helps that situation out. I told the guys, we only won three games last year but the foundation was set. You guys worked hard and now we are going to be further along in Year Two, and I think they are seeing that because we did really well in our scrimmages.
TR: Speaking of Matt and Evan, it has to be nice for you to return a point guard like Matt who ran the show last year, and also to have Evan who is a real nice post player.
JC: You can’t say enough good things about Matt. He’s just a great kid, even outside of basketball. Having a full year of varsity experience…I put a lot on him last year, getting us into offenses and defenses, and I don’t think he was quite ready for it in the beginning. You could tell he was thinking which slowed him down a little bit. He was kind of tentative, but this year there is no thinking involved with him. He knows what to do now, and having that one full year of varsity experience, and even working hard in the off season, he’s just been like a coach out there. He’s one of the guys who is helping out the younger guys. He gets it.
And Evan worked real hard in the spring. He was at open gyms leading what players were there because of (their commitments to) other sports. He was definitely a leader in the off-season, and in the weight room just getting stronger. He’s the only real true post player we have but he is doing well down there by himself. We have a couple other guys who can kind of fill in and give him a break but we’ve been asking a lot of Evan, both the score and rebound, so hopefully he holds up throughout the season. Evan is only 6-2, so a lot of times he’s undersized. He’s in a battle down there. We are not going to dominate the boards, by any means, but we need to hold our own and he’s definitely doing that. Having him being a starter last year, he’s a veteran down there.
TR: Looking at your backcourt, it seems like you have a pretty talented group there, in addition to Herbener.
JC: That’s definitely one of our stronger areas. With Herbener running the point, Aaron Hubbard (Jr., 4.4 PPG last year) is going to be our scorer. He’s looked fantastic the first couple scrimmages. He’s one of the kids who made the open gyms and he was in the weight room. He’s hungry because he didn’t have a lot of varsity time (last season). He played a little bit but we moved him down to JV to work on some things. Once he cleared those things up, he was ready to take off. Brady Sipe (Jr., 3.4) will be one of the other guards. We like to use him to backup (Herbener) at the point but also Brady has a better shot than ‘Herby’ so we’ll use him at the same time (as Herbener) so he can kind of relax and get his shot going. We really like his outside shot.
And we have a wildcard in Roman Heckstall (Jr., 3.9). He can be a heck of a player. He’s out right now with some things he needs to straighten out academically, but he should be available the second game of the year and could provide a big lift.
TR: I know you have Evan underneath, but who are some of the other players who will help out there?
JC: We have Nathan Zimmerman, who is a sophomore. He’s 6-3, but isn’t built as big as Evan. He’s kind of a skinnier post player but he’s a tough matchup. He can go outside or inside. He can shoot the three or he can post up if they put a smaller guy on him. We are looking for some mismatches in there for Nate. He has to become a little more offensive minded. He’s only a 10th grader so he’s still kind of looking up to the seniors. We are trying to get it through to him that he has to be a leader on this team. Eventhough he’s a 10th grader, we are expecting things out of him.
Aaron Huston (Jr.), Nate Cooper (Sr.), Jared Fritz (Sr.) and Eric Showalter (Sr.) will all be in the mix. They definitely have to contribute and we are trying to develop our bench. I feel we can probably go six deep and hopefully get one or two other guys to contribute. They don’t have to go out there and be dominant but they have to be able to give the other guys a break and keep the momentum going. We can’t have a letdown going to the bench. We are trying to develop our bench and build up their confidence.
TR: Is depth your biggest concern at the moment?
JC: Yeah, I would say so. Even in the summer we’d hang with a team for a half but when the other team went to the bench and when we went to the bench we’d lose a little bit. When we put the first rotation back in we were kind of climbing uphill again. That’s what we are trying to avoid. I think as the weeks go some of those guys will step up and hopefully contribute.
TR: I remember you saying last year that the team had to learn how to win. Do you think they’ve gotten there and are now ready to take that next step?
JC: I think they know what it takes to win. They know the effort it takes in practice, and the preparation before the game. We don’t just show up on game night and expect to win. They understand that part of it. Just like in our scrimmage on Saturday, we had like a four-point lead and the ball with 30 seconds to go and we had a couple guys shooting three pointers when the other team is ready to foul us. We haven’t learned that part of the game yet. We already did what we needed to do and it was time to take care of business and play a little smarter. But we addressed it and hopefully they learned from it. To answer your question, they understand the effort part of it. I think it’s more of just playing smarter basketball.
TR: As you head into the season, what are some of the goals you’ve set for your team?
JC: We just want to get better. I know that’s what a lot of coaches say but it truly is the way we are approaching it. Coming off a 1-21 season two years ago, and three wins last year, we just want to add to our win total. Whatever that is, whatever we get, hopefully it’s more than three wins. With the section this year, we feel like we can get a few more wins, especially because we have a couple players returning with varsity experience and who worked real hard. I definitely think we can do that and the kids seem very motivated by doing better and ending their senior years on a positive note. Whatever that total is, hopefully it’s a few more wins than we had last year.
TR: Last thing. What team or teams do you feel will challenge for a Section Two title?
JC: E-town is going to be really strong. They have pretty much their entire starting five back and they won it last year. And then with a lot of the other teams losing a lot, you would have to give the edge certainly to Elizabethtown. More EPHRATA BOYS, page B-4