Several Paupack players are filling key roles on local AAU 8th grade boys hoops squad
When the Northeast Machine 8th grade boys basketball team hit the hardwood this past weekend, they were young men on a mission.
Just seven days before, the local lads had traveled to Allentown to compete in an invitational tournament and experienced a definite reality check.
“We got it handed to us a little bit,” Head Coach Mike Birmelin admitted. “I was anxious to see how the kids would respond.”
As it turns out, he needn't have worried. Machine players returned to practice and redoubled their efforts, determined to erase those ugly memories.
The newly-focused squad came out firing on all cylinders at a round robin tourney held at the RiverFront Complex in Scranton, winning all three games against teams from PA and New Jersey.
“They worked their butts off,” Coach Birmelin said. “I'm very proud of how well they bounced back from a little bit of adversity. It was good to see.”
The Machine will be back on the hardwood this coming weekend at another RiverFront event. Action begins Saturday afternoon and commences Sunday morning.
The Northeast Machine is an AAU-affiliated hoops organization based here in the Maple City.
This particular team is comprised solely of eighth grade players from Honesdale and Wallenpaupack Area.
The 2014 season tipped-off in late March and will continue on through the end of May.
“They're great kids,” said Coach Birmelin said. “I have a lot of fun working with them. They're very coachable and kind of carefree. Just great kids.”
The Machine dominated all three games this past weekend at the Spring Festival, dealing teams from Scranton, Elk Lake and New Jersey double digit losses.
Anthony DeGori and Grady Birmelin form a potent 1-2 punch in the Machine's backcourt.
DeGori is the squad's main scoring threat, a multi-faceted player who can step back and hit a trey, run the court in transition or create opportunities off the dribble in a halfcourt set.
“Anthony is a very good all-round athlete,” Coach Birmelin said. “He's not the biggest kid on the court, but he's quick and loves to take it to the basket.”
Birmelin spends most of his time at the point and is extremely efficient at running the Machine attack.
“We try to get as many kids involved in the offense as we possibly can and Grady does a really good job at spreading the ball around,” said Coach Birmelin.”
Zach Kiesendahl is also emerging as a bona fide threat on the perimeter.
Kiesendahl is one several Buckhorns contributing key plays to this year's edition of the Machine squad.
“What's interesting about Zach is that he played in the post at Paupack,” Coach Birmelin said. “But, he's really starting to come into his own on the wing.”
While the Machine boasts a solid backcourt, Coach Birmelin is also pleased with his team's play in the low post.
Noah Pender leads the way. A talented, versatile player who thrives at both center and power forward, Pender is one of the team's leading scorers and rebounders.
“One of the best things about Noah is how hard he works,” Coach Birmelin said. “Even though he has really good size, he's always working hard to improve.”
Garyn Barnes and Nick Shear are also turning heads with their physical play in the paint.
According to Coach Birmelin, Barnes is an “athletically gifted player with tons of potential.”
Shear is a former ice hockey player in just his second year of organized basketball. Nick is comfortable at either post position and is one of the most improved players in the Machine program.
“Nick is a high-energy kid,” Coach Birmelin said. “He works super-hard and we have high hopes for him down the road.”