Buckhorns honored with annual officials' sportsmanship award
Wallenpaupack Area’s venture into the PIAA District Two Class 5A playoffs was cut short in the semi-final round last Friday against Abington Heights at Scranton High.
With an 11-11 record heading into the tourney, Paupack held the fourth seed and squeezed past fifth place West Scranton by a trim 41-40 margin.
Abington closed the regular season at 19-3 and easily dispatched eighth seeded North Pocono in the opening round, 64-32. That pitted the Buckhorns against the Comets for a second time this season.
When the two teams collided during the regular season, the Bucks suffered a 56-23 home loss.
Paupack skipper Chris Strong knew his squad had its work cut out for it.
At the core of the Comets, senior Jackson Danzig and junior George Tinsley are a scoring juggernaut. Winning against Abington would be a near impossibility, but just keeping pace proved to be challenging enough.
The Comets wasted no time establishing their dominance both defensively and at the hoop.
While Paupack failed to shake the silk at all during the opening period, they did manage to hold Abington to just a dozen points thanks to some solid team defense and a number of rebounds from Gabe Springer.
A trey from Mike Burk and deuces from Adam Haupt and Springer got the Bucks seven in the second but the Comets kept steaming along, netting 10 more and driving the score to 22-7 by intermission.
The Comets posted 17 in the third quarter while allowing just a 2-pointer from Springer and a 3-pointer by Derrick Vosburg.
With a 39-12 lead going into the final frame, Abington didn’t let up. Tinsley stayed in to rack up a number of foul shots and closed the night with 28 points himself.
Alex Pillar had Paupack’s only field goal in the fourth while MacBrennan Peet and Elijah Rosenthal each drained a pair at the line and Zach Kiesendahl made 1-of-2.
When it was all over, the Comets captured the night with a 58-19 win and advanced to face second seeded Dallas in the finals this weekend.
“To beat Abington you have to play a perfect game, and they don’t allow you to play a perfect game,” said Coach Strong.
“What few issues they do have, I think we were able to exploit and defensively, we played well. It had been at least 13 years since we won a district game, so it’s building blocks.”
Rosenthal, a sophomore, set the pace for Paupack this season.
Adding to his 158 points as a freshman, he tallied 308 this year to bring his total to 466 by netting 48 3-poiinters and going 87-for-112 from the stripe in the process.
Springer, also a sophomore, banked (and sometimes dunked) in 228 in his debut year with the Buckhorns after transferring in from Meyers at the start of the school term.
Vosburg and Pillar, both juniors, tallied 167 and 149 respectively, while sophomore Izaiah Santiago rounded out the top five in scoring with 89.
Peet, the lone steady starting senior, ended his three-year varsity stint with a sum of 214.
“For the most part, we had a good season,” Strong said. “We were inconsistent because we’re young and also not used to having a history of winning results in the past.
“With winning comes more winning and I think that’s something we’ll see more of next year.”
Although a district championship eluded the Buckhorns this winter, they did walk away with an award that Coach Strong is extremely proud of.
For the first time since it originated 27 years ago, Wallenpaupack, was selected as the recipient of the Donald L. Klee Sportsmanship Award by the Scranton Chapter of the PIAA Basketball Officials.
“It’s good, but humbling as well, to be recognized by the referees for teaching sportsmanship,” he said.
Strong is optimistic for what lies ahead, as are the players.
Multi-sporters such as Pillar, Vosburg, and Santiago are doing a good job at balancing their athletic pursuits and discovering they can be solid contributors in multiple disciplines.
The hardwood devotees like Rosenthal and Springer are going to turn around and find more ways to hone their hoops skills.
In the off-season, Strong plans for the Buckhorns to get involves with summer leagues and JV Coach Dave Smith will be working with the younger players.
“The future is bright, but we need to get bigger and stronger to succeed,” Strong said.
While the Purple & White will be very likely return next year with their top five scorers, Strong is excited to see what players such as JT Tirjan, Gerard McGrath, and Adam Haupt, solid JV players this past season, will bring to the varsity level as the team adds to its depth.
“These kids have grit and determination,” Strong said.
“That adds a whole new element to the game.”