HAWLEY — Paupack struggled mightily in the Lackawanna League last year, but the outlook seems much brighter as the current campaign dawns.
The Buckhorns opened up their season this past weekend in fine fashion by rolling to the championship of the 15th Annual Hawley Rotary Tournament.
"I think we got off to a pretty good start here," said Coach Rich McGinnis. "We obviously still have a long way to go, but I definitely saw some positive things that we can build on."
With Jake Brown leading the way, Paupack pounded Western Wayne by a score of 78-42 in Friday evening's semifinal. The Buckhorns then outscored Pocono Mountain East in every quarter en route to a 53-38 victory in Saturday night's title tilt.
"This year's tournament really was a tale of two very different games for us," said Coach McGinnis. "I was really pleased with our offensive output in the first game and very happy with our defense in the second.
"Now, all we have to do is put both of those things together in one game."
On the Attack
Brown was nothing short of sensational Friday night.
Paupack's silky smooth senior guard shredded each and every defense Western Wayne Coach Mike Nepa threw at him in the semis.
"It's not like we didn't work hard on defense," Coach Nepa said. "The kids were really hustling out there. They contested just about every one of his shots. He just kept on making them."
Brown was simply unstoppable against the Wildcats. He rattled the rims for a game-high 38 points on the strength of 17 field goals, one trey and a 4-for-5 stint at the stripe.
"I don't think it's a secret that Jake Brown is a special player and he deserves all the accolades he gets," said Coach McGinnis.
Page 2 of 3 - "What I think everyone should know, though, is that he's even better off the court. Jake is a terrific leader for us and he sets an outstanding example for the younger players."
Brown paced the Bucks to a big early lead, then sat out much of the fourth quarter as Coach McGinnis substituted liberally.
Jamel Blanding and TJ Root contributed eight points each to the cause, while Eric Miller tallied seven and John Steffen added six.
On the heels of this lopsided victory, Paupack headed into Saturday's title tilt for a battle with Pocono Mountain East.
The Cardinals punched their ticket to the final via a solid win over Monticello in the other semi.
Pocono Mountain came out in this one determined to slow down Brown at the very least
And, for the most part, the Cards did just that in the early going. Paupack took an early lead, but Jake was held in check while the team managed just seven points in the first quarter and 19 by intermission.
"I think he was a little bit frustrated in the first half," Coach McGinnis said. "But, we're a much more balanced team than we were last year and some kids stepped it up."
Steffen and Bouselli led the way as Brown struggled to find his rhythm.
Just a sophomore, John proved to be a formidable presence in the post against the Cards. He powered his way to a double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds. For his efforts, Steffen was named to the All-Tournament Team.
"I know he's still only a sophomore, but I'm expecting big things from John this year," said Coach McGinnis. "This was a very good start for him."
Anthony is a hard-nosed junior who's carved out a niche for himself in the paint. Bouselli isn't the kind of player who piles up huge stats; however, he plays solid defense and gets to the glass on nearly every possession.
Page 3 of 3 - Bouselli also earned an All-Tourney nod.
"Anthony does all the dirty work out there for us," said Coach McGinnis. "He has that blue collar mentality I love. He brings an aura of toughness to the court."
In the end, though, this tournament was once again a showcase for Brown's mad hoops skills.
Jake eventually solved Pocono Mountain's defense and began pouring in the points.
Despite a quiet first half, Brown still wound up with a game-high 25 points and was named Tournament MVP for a third consecutive year.
Tyler Brexel and Miller chipped in with four points apiece, while Root and Nico Tereschak added two each.
Score by Quarters...
WA (2-0) 7 12 16 18 – 53
PM (1-1) 2 11 12 13 – 38