The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2016 – Part 2

Last week here at “The Shop,” we examined the biggest summer hoops teams and tournaments in the Washington, DC and Eastern Pennsylvania regions.  This week, we focus on more of the underrated storylines to our local scholastic basketball action this summer.

General 1

General 2

Northampton &  Pocono Mountain West
Perhaps no single game I’ve seen this summer was more physical than when these two EPC teams squared off against each other.  I counted at least four times when players went down hard on the concrete in order to secure a loose ball in a contest eventually won by PMW.

North v PM

North v PM 2

North v PM 3

North v PM 4

North v PM 5

Northampton got a lift this summer when Aiden Ellwood announced he was going to be returning to the Konkrete Kids after leaving Central Catholic, but he was not available for the local summer tournaments.  Nevertheless, Northampton has played well this year and should benefit from having some nice size upfront and, as they’ve shown both this summer and over the last year, a lot of gritty players.

North 1

North 2

North 3

North 4

Pocono Mountain West sometimes gets overshadowed by Lehigh Valley teams, but they are definitely on a short list of the top teams in the district.  They play with a brand of quickness and athleticism that not many other teams in the area can showcase.  They had some personnel issues at the end of last season, but if they can keep everyone focused, there’s no reason they can’t translate their summertime success (they’ve already one won summer tournament) into winter championship titles

PMW 1

PMW 2

PMW 3

PMW 4

Bangor & Freedom
These two teams played each other last Saturday evening in an entertaining matchup and both schools have had some very impressive summers thus far.

The Slaters’ overall sports programs’ successes in 2016 might just be THE Lehigh Valley’s sport story of the year—and a lion’s share of their accomplishments belong to the boys basketball team.

Bangor is proving that life without Michael Martino (the Slaters top scoring point guard in the school’s history) won’t be as tough a transition as some might have suspected.  Bron Holland’s teams have posted a number of impressive performances this summer, including over EPC foes, and players like Reece Jones (who had some stellar games last winter) are determined to carry on the Slaters’ new tradition of excellence.

As far as the Patriots, this summer’s team might have been the most underrated group of kids I’ve seen.  They have not gotten deep into much “final day” of summer tournament action (so far) and they will most definitely be picked behind at least Liberty in their EPC division come late fall.  However, the Freedom players really impressed me with their pose over the last few weekends and look like a scrappy bunch that can’t be overlooked by anyone in their conference.

I think if they can avoid some of the personnel issues that plagued them during key stretches of the 2015-16 scholastic season, they can make a run and qualify for at least a district playoff berth this winter.

Allentown Central Catholic
Rumors of the Vikings going through a rebuilding year have been greatly overblown after Central Catholic lost Zay Jenning to graduation and a few more players due to transfers.

Central 1

Central 2

Central 3

Central 4

Central Catholic not only had perhaps the biggest team I’ve seen this number (in terms of number of players–18 to be exact) but have a very nice blend of size, speed, ball handlers and outside shooters.  Plus, they have several returning players that have experience in big game situations and they’ve look to continue their ability to play lock-down defense–something that was very apparent in most of their second half games last winter.

NOTRE DAME
If Freedom is a dark horse in the EPC, then a team you should not underestimate is Notre Dame-Green Pond.  They battled a few tough opponents over the last few weekends including Central Catholic.

Central ND 1

Central ND 2

From what I’ve seen—and I’m speaking strictly on intensity—they were second only to Bangor among the Colonial League teams I had the chance to watch this month.  They’re always on the pre-season list as a probable playoff team, despite not getting to the title game a year ago, but I wouldn’t forget about them when looking to make prognostications for the 2017 campaign.

Salisbury
I think if there’s an award for coaches who yelled “defense” this summer—it would have to go to Salisbury Head Coach Jason Weaver.  As usual, he had his team operating at a breakneck pace—usually matched up against schools that have a much higher enrollment number—and has kept the intensity on all month.

It seems like they did have difficulty in the transition game against a few teams (including a surprisingly strong Souderton team), but if history is any indication (along with the talent they have returning this winter), the Falcons will once again get off to a great start in December and will be one of a handful of teams competing for a Colonial League championship.

WHS 1

 

WHS 2

 

*****

Fans of girls hoops…don’t despair.  We’ll have news and insights on some of the top ladies’ teams’ performances in the next installment of the “SportsTalk Shop.”

You can also hear more insights on summer league hoops and other sports issues by checking out last week’s “SportsTalk” podcast.

Last but not least, be sure to come out to a special “SportsTalk Gets Wild” this Thursday at Whitehall’s Buffalo Wild Wings (on Grape Street in front of the Whitehall Mall)—an event to raise money for the Miller Keystone Blood Center.   The show will feature the State Champion Parkland Girls Volleyball team, along with a special guest to talk about an event Parkland football fans will want to know more about coming up this fall.  You can learn more about this event, as well as going to http://rcn.com/rcntv/bww-sportstalk-2016, click on the “Miller Keystone Blood Center” link for the July 21st event.  Then print the “dine-and-donate” flyer and bring it with you to the program to help raise money for our local charity.

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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