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Skyhawks Look to Build off Record-Setting Season and Defend Metro League Title

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Skyhawks Look to Build off Record-Setting Season and Defend Metro League Title

Kyle Pinnell

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The Southridge varsity boys basketball team had one of their most successful seasons ever a year ago. They won the Metro League for the first time in program history, went undefeated at home, won a school-record 25 games, and finished fourth in state.

This season the Hawks are entering the season with a new team who are looking to come in and build off of those accomplishments. One crucial loss from a season ago is first-team All-Metro center Filip Fullerton who anchored the Skyhawks on defense and was an important piece of the offense. However, the team brought up some talented younger player and still have some of their key starters from last year such as seniors Brock Henry and Zach Galvin.

“This is a really unique team because we have guys from all over,” Henry said. “A lot of different sophomores, juniors, and seniors. It is a lot of guys who have never played together. We have a core set of returners, but learning how to incorporate the people we’ve brought up and people we’ve added to the team into the game plan is going to be a challenge early on.”

And while the Skyhawks are the defending Metro League champions, they do not really feel the pressure that comes along with it.

“Of course we want to win a league title,” Head Coach and reigning Metro League coach of the year Philip Vesel said. “We want to do it every year, but we’re not defending anything because we’re not the same team.”

Last season was full of many achievements for the Skyhawks as they set multiple school records. However, an enduring and perhaps the most painful memory came at the end of the season. It took place in the first game that they played at the Chiles Center against the Lincoln Cardinals, a contest that the Hawks were favored to win. That day the Skyhawks couldn’t hit any of their shots. They fell to the Cardinals by three points while shooting only 28% from the field and missing 19 consecutive three-point field goals. Their dream of a state championship was over before it really began.

“You kind of just have to flush it,” Galvin said of the painful memory. “Every season is a new team and what happened last season doesn’t affect us this season.”

“But at the same time you want to take away the positives from it,” Henry added. “We learned that you always have to come out ready no matter who the opponent is. Nothing is ever handed to you. Once you get to that stage at the Chiles Center every team that you play from then on is going to be coming after you.”

Losses like those keep coaches up at night, but Vesel said that he moved on from that game quicker than people might think.

“We completed our butts off and lost a one-possession game and we shot 28% from the floor,” he said. “You’re going to have a game where you don’t make shots and unfortunately it was down there at the state tournament.”

Coming into the season, Vesel has put a heavy emphasis on paint touches. Every possession he wants the Skyhawks to drive into the paint where they can collapse the defense and generate more open looks. Getting these paint touches allows shooters to get in-rhythm three-point attempts, re-attack the basket, and play advantage basketball through 2-on-1 opportunities. While they don’t have a post player like Fullerton who they can dump the ball into consistently, the team has a lot of players who can attack the paint really well and stress out the opposing defenses.

With a team full of new players, a big focus early on is building chemistry. The offense that the Skyhawks run will be fast and free-flowing, requiring players to be on the same page for it to be successful. This type of offense allowed the Hawks to play uptempo last year where they averaged 72 points per game.

“We have a ton of great players and we have a lot of talent on the team, but talent doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have chemistry and you can’t work together and put that talent together,” Henry said.

This year the Skyhawks have a lot of seniors who are capable of leading a younger team. According to Vesel, the two captains will be Henry and Galvin who have both been on the team since their sophomore seasons.

Both Galvin and Henry have played in some of the bigger tournaments before which includes the Les Schwab Invitational at the end of December that the Hawks will be participating in for the second year in a row. Last season they went 2-2 in the tournament and faced national powerhouses such as Oak Hill (Virginia), and Crespi (California). The tournament is always fun and provides some of the toughest out-of-state competition for the Hawks.

This season is sure to be another exciting one for the Hawks as they look to defend their Metro League title and make it back to the Chiles Center for another run at the state championship.

“It’s been a long journey and this is hopefully going to be a good way to end it,” Galvin said reflecting on his time in the program. “We’re going to make a lot of memories have a lot of fun, and hopefully we can achieve some of our goals.”

“We have to enjoy every step of the way,” Henry added. “It’s definitely way more enjoyable if you’re achieving great things like we did last season and making school history.”

Statistics courtesy of SouthridgeBasketball.com

 

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