Latrobe boys looking to fill scoring void

Monday, November 25, 2019 | 5:27 PM

Latrobe’s boys basketball team begins the season more than 800 points in the hole.

The graduation of seniors Bryce Butler and Reed Fenton left quite a void in the Wildcats’ lineup and on the scoreboard. Butler averaged 22.4 points per game, while Fenton was right behind at 19.1.

“I don’t think anyone will be able to lift those types of numbers, but it has to be by a team effort,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel. “We need everyone to step up, just so we can get some of those points back. We really have to be committed. Every night, they are all collectively expected to make up for that loss of production.”

That puts a bigger emphasis on the team’s defense.

“We do a lot of defensive drills and focus a lot on defense,” senior Mike Noonan said. “We need to stop teams with our defense since we can’t just be scoring anytime. We don’t have the scorers we have last year. We all have to pitch in points.

“Recently, we’ve had good chemistry on offense and defense. There’s been a lot of talking on defense. I feel like we have a more of a variety of scorers this year and kids coming off the bench, so that’s a plus.”

Developing some depth will be key for Latrobe, which wants to play fast.

“I think our defense is going to have to be as close to stifling as you have to be. We have to make up for it on some end. I think that’s one area we can control more,” Wetzel said. “That’s where numbers become important. If we don’t get a rotation of eight, it’ll be hard to maintain that kind of pressure.”

Junior guard Ryan Sickenberger and Noonan, a center, return to the starting lineup.

“Mike Noonan had a fantastic offseason. We’ll expect him to score more points,” Wetzel said. “I think Ryan will be asked to expand his role. He had some big games on some big nights. Now, we’ll ask him to be a steady producer of points. He can spot up and hit open shots and get to the basket. I think that’ll be key for us because I think we’ll ask him to be one of the consistent scorers we need.”

Junior guard Drew Clair, who saw a lot of minutes last season, will be a big part of the lineup. Senior guard Donny Shimko and junior guards Nick Rauco and Frankie Newill will see time as well.

“There are a lot of new faces and a whole lot of new responsibilities and point production and downright heads-up play,” Wetzel said. “We had some really smart players in the five seniors we graduated. We have to figure out who is going to step up and embrace those roles.

“I think we will have to play up-tempo. We’re not going to deviate from way we play, but we don’t have a guy who we can just put the ball in his hands and let him make something happen,” he continued. “When we don’t have something that’s easy in transition, we have to be more patient, maybe, than we have in years.”

So far, Noonan has been impressed with the effort he’s seen from the squad.

“We have a lot of players who haven’t played varsity basketball. Going through practice, though, we’ve been looking pretty good as a team,” he said. “A lot of our younger kids have really stepped up their scoring and being leaders for the team.”

While questions remain, Wetzel has been encouraged with the progress the team has made.

“They seem really mentally tough, which is huge,” he said. “With our inexperience and scoring production loss, these kids will have to be very tough and show mental discipline to play our way and stay with it through the entire 32 minutes.

“Somewhere around mid- to late summer, we showed the toughness that we were lacking in the spring. We’ll really have to grind it out some nights.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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