The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 1)

With area schools now out of session, high school summer league basketball action has been picking up speed this past week.

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The “SportsTalk​” cameras were out and about covering several different local tournaments in the RCN viewing area the last few days and caught up with a number of coaches and players to get their thoughts on summertime basketball thus far.

(For more of these interviews, plus additional video highlights of summertime basketball action, check out last week’s “RCN Sports Talk presented by the Morning Call” program available through RCN On Demand as well as this Thursday’s show.)

A few notes/observations on the summer basketball action…

*The Central Catholic girls basketball team looks to return to form this year. After a rare under-500 regular season last winter, the Vikettes have added both height and depth to a young but talented team. With an extra year of experience under their belts, Central’s players looked extremely confident (and efficient) in running Coach Kopp’s motion offense to near perfection in the Holy Family Tournament last week—claiming the #1 ranking heading into the final day of action with their scrappy style of play.

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*Northampton, Nazareth and Easton are three of a number of girls teams that lost significant players to graduation, but each has lots of talent coming up through its system. The K-Kids probably have the biggest gap to fill, replacing Aja Blount (who averaged over 20 points and almost 20 rebounds per game).

Easton has shown a strong back court presence, led by Jah’nel Oliver, who had 13 points in the Holy Family Championship game, and boasts several outstanding forwards as well, including Hanna Doell—who is back after missing last season with an injury.

Nazareth also some big shoes to fill and is still looking to establish its back court combination (and have a TON of unselfish ball distributors), but the Blue Eagles have lots of depth at every position (and even more height coming in) and no doubt will be among the top teams in the 6A classification once again this year.

 

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*Before I saw the Patriots last weekend, several parents (from opposing schools, no less) advised me to keep an eye on both Whitehall and Freedom girls teams—programs that were not considered about the elite teams last winter. Both squads have a number of young players coming up, and one player from a rival school that I talked with said she’s not looking forward to facing either of those teams again during the regular season.

We’ll have more interviews, video highlights and packages, both on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program (7pm, LIVE) and here in the next installment of the “SportsTalk Shop.”

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Also, don’t forget to stop by Buffalo Wild Wings (Grape St., Whitehall, PA) this this Thursday night for this week’s show as we broadcast LIVE on location. Check out the “SportsTalk Gets Wild” page here on the RCN-TV website for more details on this show and for ways to help out a local organization!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Mid-Winter Sports Update

Maybe it was the lack of snow or the warmer-than-normal temperatures over the last month, but it is really hard to believe we are at the halfway point of the scholastic basketball season.  Here’s three Eastern Pennsylvania Conference-related observations from the first half of the winter sports campaign.

Parkland looks even better than last year

They not only have practically the same team back from a year ago, but they have more depth and can beat you in more ways than they did during last season’s run to the state playoffs.  They barely missed a beat without some of their football players on board to start the season—giving the “reserves” an extended varsity experience.  However, the returning players seem even more determined than a year ago, and I don’t think anything less than a state title game is what they are setting their sights on.

The only question might be what teams they’ll face—and when—in the PIAA tournament.  There’ll be several of the high-octane offenses from Philadelphia that love to push the tempo and Parkland doesn’t get a whole lot of chances to see that from teams in the Lehigh Valley—not to the extent of the Philly teams.  However, the team has gotten some significant tests early (and a couple more still to come before states).   I would be surprised if the seniors refuse to take every opportunity to match the football team’s success, and it certainly looks like they have the weapons to go much deeper into the state playoffs.

Central’s coming on strong
I saw Central Catholic a few times in December, and, they looked like a young team that had a ton of potential, and, after going through some growing pains, they would eventually have great success.


I’m not sure if Santa granted the Vikings a flash forward to their learning curve, but in the times I’ve seen them since Christmas, it seems like the younger players are not only buying into the team-defense approach, but they are becoming much more comfortable playing—and scoring—together on the court.  I think some of the Class 3A teams were hoping Central Catholic might have to wait until next year to once again be considered the favorite in the District XI playoffs, but the way the Vikings have been playing the last few weeks, I think they have a great chance at being in the EPC playoffs as well as being the ‘team-to-beat’ in their district classification.

Freedom as a dark horse?
There are some interesting teams in the “Steel” division of the EPC—and probably several of those teams could make the playoffs with a quality run over the next few weeks.  If I had to pick one of them to surprise area basketball fans over the next month, I’m leaning toward Freedom.

They have one of the area’s best head coaches (Joe Stellato), a great coaching staff, and some really good athletes.  On paper, they may not be the best team, but they’ve had some nice wins and have been “in” most of their losses.  Not many people are picking the Patriots to do much in the post-season, but of all the teams not directly in the area’s media spotlight, I think Freedom might be one team to make some noise over the next month.

Allen and Whitehall were also featured on RCN-TV recently and are two more teams that have played well this season.  With a number of talented teams, the Canaries, Zephyrs and a few other teams all very well could contend in the playoffs this February.  Also, Bethlehem Catholic was a team to watch on our basketball preview show back in December, and they have done very little to disappoint so far.

We’ll have more opinions and video highlights of other high school sports teams, in addition to wrestling videos, coming up over the next several weeks here at the “SportsTalk Shop.”

Also, keep checking back to the RCN-TV website for our schedule the latest games to be broadcast on RCN-TV and feel free to send your sports comments and opinions to us at RCNSporsTalk@rcn.com