Young Eagles looking to challenge again

By on December 5, 2013

Spencer Moser brings some much-needed senior leadership to the Eagles’ lineup. (Review file photo)

Spencer Moser brings some much-needed senior leadership to the Eagles’ lineup. (Review file photo)

Cocalico enters the season coming off another solid year, one in which the Eagles finished with a winning record (12-11) and made another trip to the District playoffs.

While the Eagles must replace six graduated seniors who were a big part of last year’s squad, they do return two key pieces who were vital to last year’s success in sophomore guard Tucker Lescoe and super quick senior guard Spencer Moser.

Those two will be surrounded by an athletic, but young squad that will look to keep the Eagles in challenge mode in what appears to be a tight Section two race this year.

Lescoe, who burst onto the scene as a freshman and led the team in scoring with a 15.5 average per game, will miss some time at the beginning with an injury suffered during football season. Wealand was mum on when he will return, but the eighth year coach is confident Moser and Co. can hold down the fort until his talented scorer can get back.

Cocalico Eagles Roster

Cocalico Eagles Roster

Recently, Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth caught up with Wealand to discuss the upcoming season. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

Todd Ruth: You guys made a late push and snuck into Districts last year. What were your feelings on how that season ended up?

Travis Wealand: Last year our guys worked really hard and kind of set those goals to compete for the section and to make Districts, and we got there. Obviously at the end we had to wait around, which was a different experience. We actually practiced without knowing whether we were in or not. But it was a really rewarding thing to know that you made it. And to have our guys have the opportunity to play in the post-season is always a positive for our program. We were just very pleased with how hard those guys worked. They put in a lot of time and effort and I thought we ended with a nice season.

Cocalico Eagles Schedule

Cocalico Eagles Schedule

TR: Moving to this year, you graduated six quality seniors. With that in mind, how have you guys made the transition from last year to this year?

TW: I think it’s always a challenge from one year to the next to make a transition, especially when you lose a lot from your starting line-up. And this year is no exception. It’s hard to replace guys that have meant so much to your program, but we have a good solid group of guys coming up that will look to impact us in a positive way. We have a nice group of seniors again who have been around. We don’t have as much varsity experience with this group but we haven’t worried about that in the past, and we are not going to worry about that this year. They know what is expected, and they are hard workers, which is kind of the character trait of our guys. It kind of starts there with those seniors, and their leadership is going to be essential to our success this year.

TR: You been with them for two weeks now. What are your early impressions of this team?

TW: Well, I’ve been with a few of them for two weeks. We actually have had two full practices with the football guys (as of Monday). We had a week of practice with just five guys, which was very different. But obviously those kids got a lot of individual instruction with us. But now that everyone is back, I definitely see the camaraderie. I see the competitors that they are, and now it’s just a matter of us getting our basketball legs back, and getting in shape for an indoor season. It’s going to take a little bit of time but you can tell they are ready to go.

TR: Tucker Lescoe obviously burst onto the season last year and did a great job for you guys. Talk about what he accomplished a year ago and what his potential is for the future.

TW: Tucker is definitely a player that really loves being on the court. He really puts in the time working on his game. And last year as a freshman, a lot of our guys looked at him to lead already, which is very unique as far as being a freshman. I thought he came in and did a nice job last year. Obviously he has a knack for scoring. But the intangible things that he knows, just from him being around the gym his whole life as far as situations, knowing where people need to be, that really helped us last year, and we’ll be looking for that from him again this year. And then Spencer Moser coming back as our other returning starter, he brings good depth there at the guard position as well. He’s a scorer and an outstanding defender. With those two guys in the back court, that is a good start for us.

TR: Tucker was injured in the last football game. What is his status and how long will he be out?

TW: I’m not going to talk about any injuries. We are dinged up a little bit. We are expecting to get everyone back at some point, and when that happens we’ll be ready to go with whomever is ready to go. Right now we are preparing with the guys that are healthy and we are looking forward to good things.

TR: Tucker and Spencer really account for a lot of the returning points that you do have. Are you going to be looking for others to step up and pick up some of that slack?

TW: I think every year you need to find new people that are ready to put the ball in the basket, and it’s really no different this year. We have a couple guys there who have had some notoriety for scoring but as a program we like to have everybody make an impact on both sides of the floor. It’s great when the other team has to defend all five guys. Offensively, we try to put our guys in a position where we can use their skills to strengthen our team. And we have some guys who are looking to step into those roles.

TR: Beside those two guys, who else has experience for you?

TW: On the varsity level we have seniors Mitch Deering, Zach Eberly and Casey Kerschner. And then Austin Noll and John Waskowicz as juniors, those two guys have a little bit of experience. And then we got a little experience this summer with sophomores Dante Haines and DJ Fabiani on that level. Again, they are all competitors and work hard in practice so it’s just a matter of us moving down the right path and putting people in the right positions to put the ball in the basket and to also defend well.

TR: Do you guys change your style from year to year according to the kids you have or are we going to expect a similar style of Cocalico basketball this year?

TW: We run similar things in our program. We like the continuity from seventh grade on up. We try to really get everybody on board and then from year to year we have to tweak things or change things, based on personnel, and I think most coaches do that. This year we are adjusting a few things and trying some new things as well to fit our personnel. It’s a different group of guys. We are not real tall and we’re not real big so we have to use our quickness and our speed as a strength to get up and down the floor a little bit. I think these guys are ready for that.

TR: Do you consider your speed and quickness your biggest strength as a team?

TW: I do consider our speed and our team quickness as a big asset for us. Even our bigger players are pretty quick up and down the floor. And getting other team’s bigs to guard ours in different locations is a big plus for us so yeah, I do feel like our speed and quickness are definitely a bonus.

TR: Looking at your squad, what would you say are the biggest areas in need of improvement from your team?

TW: Well, we definitely need to get the experience. The experience is the part that we don’t over-emphasize because they do know what is expected. But, the experience on the floor at the varsity level is a concern. However, having two starters back, both as guards, really helps as far as that goes. And then the other guys who will be rounding out the roster know what to expect. We do feel that is something we have to obviously pay attention to but it’s something we think will turn over pretty smoothly for us. I think with our size, we are going to have to do a good job with rebounding. We are going to have to work hard to box out well to keep people off the glass, and we just have to be tough in those kinds of situations. Hopefully our guys are up to that challenge as well.

TR: Could you give me a little insight on each player who will be in the lineup?

TW: Mitch Deering is a senior guard who is a tenacious defender. He’s a scrappy player on the court. He is undersized but he has a big heart. We are looking at him to step in and fulfill a big role for us. He’s showing the knack for scoring lately and we just like the fact that he knows what to do. Zach Eberly is a 6-4 senior and likes to rebound and score around the basket. He’s a hustle player who does all the little things to help a team. Another guy to help out inside is senior Casey Kerschner, who is 6-2 and a very strong player. He rebounds well and plays solid defense. He’s a great kid who works very hard.

Spencer Moser is obviously a returning starter. He’s real quick, and one of the best on-the-ball defenders we’ve had probably since Matt Carty. He’s going to be a leader on the floor as a point guard and he’ll look to make it tough on opposing players. He brings a lot of intensity. And Tucker is a scorer, a leader and definitely is going to get a lot of notoriety and attention from other teams so he’s going to do a great job for us in making other people better on the floor while still getting his own when he needs to. We look for big things out of him.

Mark Ulysse is new to us this year so we are learning about him. He’s an athletic senior and it looks like he can run the floor well so it’s just a matter of him getting experience with us. Austin Noll is a junior shooter who has a knack for scoring. He’s really picked things up the first two weeks and works really hard on the court. We are looking to him stepping in and fulfilling some of our scoring as well. John Waskowicz (6-0) is another undersized big guy but he does all that dirty work. He’ll take charges, he’ll rebound, guard a bigger guy…He’s very receptive to any kind of challenge like that. Ian Arcudi is going to fill a role as a guard. He has a knack for creating things offensively. And our sophomores, DJ Fabiani, defensively he just has a lot of instinct. He’s around the ball, gets his hands on passes which hopefully will create offense for us. He’s another great kid that wants to succeed. And Dante Haines is a guard who has the knack for getting to the basket and also can shoot the three. He’s an intense player who brings a lot of energy.

TR: With so many newcomers to the mix, what kind of goals have you set for this team?

TW: We always have the same goals. We want to always compete for the section. I think that is just a staple of our program that our kids know what our expectations are and we battle. We want to be competing in every game. We know there will be games when we are out-sized or whatever but we have to find a way to win. And obviously our goal is always to make districts. We talked about trying to advance as well, which is always a goal for us, and see where that takes us. But obviously for right now trying to compete for the section title is always a staple for us so hopefully our guys put us in position to be there when the season ends in February.

TR: What do you think has to happen for you guys to reach those goals?

TW: We need to defend well. We need to create opportunities for our offense from our defense. That is going to be a big important part for us. Playing solid defense and on the offensive end we need to learn how to play together and have good timing on the floor. We never question their effort. They always play hard and lay it out there. It’s such a great thing to coach kids like that. We know they are going to give their best effort so it’s just a matter of our timing and getting people in position to score.

TR: Looking at the section, it seems like it is pretty even and will be a dog fight all year. Is that how you see it?

TW: Lebanon is always good. There are teams in our section I feel they are always dog fights. Every game seems to be a tough game in our section. Lebanon will be right up there. I think Ephrata has the talent this year to do very well. CV has some new faces over there so I’m not sure about them. E-town plays very hard. Now they lost some key players last year but you can never rule them out because Coach Dolan does a great job over there. And Solanco always has shooters, so they can create opportunities to be in games. Our section is going to be tough. It’s going to be a dog fight but I definitely think it’s going to be a battle for everybody each night. And I think a lot of the crossover games are going to impact what happens in our section too. Winning some of those games gives you momentum and it definitely puts you in a better position. It’s definitely a challenge but obviously if you can win a couple of those games it goes a long way.

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