7-foot center, super sophomores make Knoch a team to watch

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM


In basketball, there are big men, and then there are really big men.

At 7-foot, 260 pounds, Knoch sophomore Zane Pacek certainly falls into the latter category, especially at the high school level.

Knights coach Alan Bauman said Pacek reminds him, in appearance, of former Oklahoma State All-American center “Big Country” Bryant Reeves.

“He’s a throwback,” Bauman said. “Zane plays very hard and has the skills in the post. If he continues to develop, he’s going to be a handful for other teams. We’re hoping to run the ball through the post to him and to play inside out.”

Pacek is one of three Knoch sophomores who started as freshmen last season. Teagan Finucan and Jackson Bauman — the coach’s son — return at the guard position.

“Teagan was our high scorer, averaging 17 points,” Bauman said. “Jackson is a point guard and floor general. He averaged 10 points and five assists per game.”

Bauman has been working with his guards to take advantage of Pacek’s presence in the middle.

“We’ve talked to them about how having a post player who can finish opens things up for everyone else because the other team has to defend him,” Bauman said. “The lanes open up because there isn’t as much defensive help.”

Rounding out the Knights’ starting five should be another sophomore, 6-7 Derek Lang, and junior Kaden Spencer. Senior Zarian Finucan — Teagan’s older brother — should be the first player coming off the bench.

“Derek was our third-leading scorer, averaging about 9 per game,” he said. “Kaden is our Swiss Army knife. He does a little bit of everything. He defends the other team’s best player and rebounds. He’s the kind of kid who you really need to win games.”

The Knights will be looking to control the pace of the game at both ends of the court.

“We’ve been consistent in our offensive and defensive philosophies,” Bauman said. “We are who we are, and the kids have bought into it. On defense, we want to play an aggressive man-to-man. We talk about communication, activity and getting deflections.”

Last season, Knoch posted an 8-15 overall record, but finished 5-5 in Section 1-4A to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs. The Knights dropped a 46-35 decision to West Mifflin in a preliminary round game.

“We had a lot of growth and development toward the end of the year,” Bauman said. “We worked to get better every day, and ended up being a playoff team.”

Knoch’s young core of players has continued to work on its game during the offseason, according to Bauman.

“We knew about this group when I took the job here,” said Bauman, who’s entering his fourth season with the Knights. “They play a lot of basketball outside of the school team. They work very, very hard and want to get better. We’re looking to build on the second half of last year.”

Knoch returns to a section that includes Hampton, Highlands, Freeport, Indiana and Greensburg Salem. Last season, Hampton went undefeated in section play, with Highlands finishing second. The Knights tied for third with Freeport.

“Hampton and Highlands are the class of the section until someone can knock them off,” Bauman said. “Hampton has Peter Kramer, one of the top guards in the WPIAL, and Highlands has one of the best big men in the area (in Bradyn Foster). From top to bottom, it should be an interesting section.”

Knoch will scrimmage Burrell and Shady Side Academy before embarking on an exhibition schedule featuring games against Beaver Falls, Chartiers Valley, Mars and Quaker Valley. The Knights also are looking to schedule contests against North Catholic and Moon.

“It will be a fun December to get us ready for the Hamptons and Highlands in section play,” Bauman said.

Knoch boys at a glance

Coach: Alan Bauman (fourth season)

Last year’s record: 8-15 (5-5 Section 1-4A)

Key returners: Teagan Finucan (Soph., G), Jackson Bauman (Soph., G), Zane Pacek (Soph., C), Derek Lang (Soph., F), Kaden Spencer (Jr., G), Zarian Finucan (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Vinnie DeFelice (Soph., G), Zach Szebalski (Soph., F), Jeremy Schedit (Jr., G), Jacob Fox (Sr. F)

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