Mounts eager to build on last year’s success

By on December 3, 2014
Ephrata senior Nathan Zimmerman is the top returnee for the Mounts.

Ephrata senior Nathan Zimmerman is the top returnee for the Mounts.

Ephrata enters the 2014-15 boys basketball campaign with a little bit of steam after earning its best finish and first non-losing season in nine years a season ago.

The Mounts finished the year at 11-11 and nearly made the L-L League playoffs, getting edged out by Cocalico on the final night of the regular season. Still, there were plenty of strides made.

Entering this season, the Mounts will look to take that next step in Coach Jason Coletti’s fourth season at the helm, although they’ll do it without the services of key members off of last year’s team, including aaron Hubbard, who paced the team in scoring.

The cupboard wan’t left totally bare with three-year starter Nate Zimmerman (10.1 p.p.g.) and junior Matt McGillan (3.5) returning. The good news is there is a nice group of underclassmen looking to step in and compliment those two returnees.

If those players can grow up quickly, the Mounts could be in the mix when Section Two play winds down in February.

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: You are coming of your best season at 11-11, you guys made a lot of strides. What are your thoughts on the accomplishments they made?

Jason Coletti: I was very happy for that group of seniors. They were a good group of kids who worked hard. They had their first winning season I guess you could say, going .500 for the first time in nine years for the school. I was happy that they went out on a kind of winning note. Unfortunately we missed the league playoffs by half a game but I’m happy for those guys to at least be able to go out on a high note. It sets the tone for future years.

TR: Just getting some wins and having some success, how does that help you going forward?

JC: I think Nathan Zimmerman being a senior and being in the high school program for four years…he was a freshman my first year here. He has a lot of varsity experience and is going to be a three-year starter for us. Just getting that taste of winning and being close to the playoffs, you know what you are practicing for and working hard for…it’s not just going out there and playing a game. There is meaning behind it playing games in late January and early February. And Matt McGillan, a junior, played a lot of meaningful minutes and has put in a lot of time. He saw all the had work that that group of seniors put in and the success that came with that. That just kind of filters down to the other guys.

TR: Obviously you have to replace all those guys who graduated. How do you plan on doing that?

JC: Well, it won’t be easy. We lost some quality seniors. Hubbard was our main scorer, Sipe handled the ball, and Huston was our X Factor last year. He was a good outside shooter and did all the little things. But with Zimmy being a three-year starter, we are kind of putting a lot on his shoulders. We are asking him to do a lot. And Matt McGillan is capable of handling the workload as much as Aaron Hubbard did last year as far as the scoring goes, and I think those guys being a one-two punch wll really help us. We have a lot of new guys to break in, and the way we are going to play, it’s going to benefit everybody out there. We have a smart group of players, even the sophomores coming up, they are getting use to varsity basketball but they are smart players which can make up for a lot of deficiencies.

TR: You are gong into your fourth year, and obviously everybody has been in your system for a while. Does that make the transition for these guys to the varsity level a little easier each year?

JC: It does, especially because we had Nathan Zimmerman there as a freshman. Now he’s a senior and he knows the drills and knows what we’re doing offensively and defensively, and Matt McGillan as been with us since a freshman on the JV team. He’s going into his third year of practicing with us a well. Those two are kind of coaches on the court, helping the guys out. Even the freshmen coming up, we had a good summer with them, trying to get them acclimated to what we do. We got a lot of new guys to break in but we are not really far behind.

TR: Obviously things center around Nate and Matt and what they are able to do. What are your expectations for those two on the court?

JC: I expect Matt to have a real break-out year. He put in a lot of time. He played AAU basketball for the first time, enjoyed it. It was a different type of basketball with it being a little more physical. He’s getting some college looks already as a junior. He’s excited about that and that’s motivation for him. I’m expecting Matt to have a real good year. He’s a pretty athletic kid. For Nate, it’s his senior year, and I was talking to him and saying, “This is the year that you’ve been waiting for.” We are going to put a lot of responsibility on them. Those two are the captains, and we hopefully will have a real nice one-two punch with them.

TR: Is there anyone else who saw some varsity time last year?

JC: Christian Miles got a little bit of time and I’m actually very happy with the way he has been playing for us. Since the beginning of practice, he’s probably our best on-ball defender. The past two years we’ve been asking him to shoot the ball more. He has a pretty good shot but he’s been kind of a reluctant shooter. I see him shooting the ball more, because it’s his senior year and there is nobody ahead of him. We are asking him to shoot the ball more because he can, and I see him doing that. He’s really stepping up his game the last couple weeks.

TR: Let’s talk about the newcomers. Who do you see stepping in to replace those other guys?

JC: Micah Krauter, a sophomore, is just a gym rat. He’s always over at the Rec Center, always asking for individual time. He’s a very good shooter who handles the ball very well. We need to work on his quickness a little bit, which is what we’ve been doing, but he’s one of our smarter basketball players because he plays all the time. He’s in the fold to be a starter. He’s just one of those coachable kids that you like to coach because he’s like a sponge. He soaks up everything. We are looking for a lot of good things from him. He has a really good outside shot. Then, freshman Sam Cable is also fighting for a starting spot on varsity. He’s another kid who does everything you ask of him. He has a pretty good outside shot as well. We are going to have some pretty good outside shooters so I think that will help open up things inside for Zimmy once we get him going into the post.

TR: Who is going to play the point?

JC: Matt McGillan will and Micah Krauter will also spend some time there to help alleviate pressure.

TR: What about other guys coming of the bench? Is there anyone else you see contributing?

JC: Yeah definitely. Daniel Gerola will most likely be our sixth man. He’s going to be doing a lot of the “dirty work,” so to speak. He’ll set a lot of screens, we’ll ask him to rebound the basketball. He provides a lot of energy coming off the bench, and being a senior, will provide us with some leadership on the floor. It’s noticeable when he gets into the game. Our defensive intensity always picks up because he’s always talking, diving on the floor and going after the ball…we like that energy coming off the bench from him. We have Alex Rummel, who is a very good athlete of the football team. He’s a had-nosed kid and we are looking for a lot of good things from him. We just have to get him used to the varsity game. Once he gets caught up to the speed of the game I think he’ll be OK. And then we have another sophomore, Ben Molchany, who is a very good basketball play who we just have to get him used to the varsity speed. Once he and Alex get there, I think our bench will come around.

TR: With all of those new faces to plug in there, how do you see this team progressing through the season?

JC: I like our mixture. I like our experience with Nathan being a three-year starter. We lack some experience but with a three-year starter and a very good basketball player, and Matt with some experience, I think their experience will kind of get us by with the lack of experience from some of the younger guys. We played very well in our scrimmage last week at Northern Lebanon, and the younger guys weren’t phased by it. After the first quarter, they were accustomed to the speed of the game, and changing defense and things like that. I think we’re moving forward and getting better every day in practice. We have a scrimmage (Tuesday) and I’m anxious to see them play against another team again and…I just think we’ll be ready for next Monday night at Manheim Central.

TR: As far as on the court and the way you guys are playing is concerned, what are some of the better things these guys do?

JC: They share the ball really well. That was one of the things I was kind of concerned about going into the season, but the other guys aren’t afraid to shoot the ball. They got to understand Nathan Zimmerman and Matt McGillan are going to be our scorers. Their time will come but we really need to make sure the guys with the varsity experience are the ones taking the most shots. I was happy through the scrimmage and the practices because we are really sharing the basketball. Even Matt and Zimmy are even sharing it maybe a little too much. We want them to be our scorers and they are making the extra pass which is great to see, but come crunch time and when we need a basket we need to go to those guys. I think they’ll do that. They are kind of playing team ball right now, which is important. They are just trying to get the younger guys accustomed to everything.

TR: Do you consider your inexperience as a team overall the biggest weakness in the early going?

JC: It is, and it may take four, five or six games until they come around, but they are good enough athletes and good enough basketball players. It’s just being out there in front of people and getting used to it. I think they’ll be OK. Our practices are pretty fast-paced, going from drill to drill, so they are picking up on things the way the games are going to be. We practice the way the games are…they are fast-paced, and you got to be able to change your mind from drill to drill, and they are picking that up. The first couple days they were kind of in awe with the speed we go at in practice, but they are getting accustomed to it, and once they become really comfortable they’ll definitely pick things up in games.

TR: Checking out your schedule, it’s pretty brutal early with Manheim Central and Cocalico leading it off. What’s your take on that?

JC: It is. The first five or six games, there are no easy ones. Central is loaded and we are playing in their place opening night. That will be their third game and our first so that’s always kind of an advantage or the other team with a couple games underneath their belts. Then we got Cocalico, which is a back-yard rivalry. It’s going to be a big crowd, it’s always a close game and we’ll see how that one goes. Then we got Penn Manor, who is really going to be a tough team in Section One…That first week, those first three games are really tough…then we go to Cedar Crest and play McCaskey. It doesn’t get easier but we are going to do our best and come out of that with some experience. We are going to try to steal a couple wins and get some momentum going back into section play. I feel in our section we can play with anybody, even with the lack of experience. Those non-league games with Cocalico and Central are only going to help us.

TR: As far as your goals are concerned, what do you think this team is capable of doing this year?

JC: I want to be able to have another winning season. I want Nathan Zimmerman and the rest of the seniors to go out with a winning season. And I think if we hold our heads above water the first five or six games, I think we’ll be OK. I think those newcomers will really help us once they pass those five or six games. Our goal is to make the playoffs. That’s always our goal to make the league playoffs, district playoffs and then we’ll see where it goes.

TR: You talked about the section being pretty wide open. Do you see anyone being the front runner in Section Two?

JC: I don’t see a dominant team. I like the way Conestoga Valley has been playing. They had a lot of new guys last year, and they had a little bit of a down year, but they played all summer together and they played very well. I got to watch them a couple times over the summer. They are going to be pretty good. Lebanon is always tough. they got some tough kids and have a couple guys coming back with varsity experience. They lose a couple big guys but they play a lot of basketball together as well. Those would probably be the top two teams if I had to pencil a couple in, but I don’t think there is a true dominant team.

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