Barons bring back veteran group
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
A year ago, the Manheim Central boys basketball team was learning on the job.
This winter, the Barons are hoping to take advantage of that experience.
Having graduated only three seniors from the team that finished 10-12 in the 2011-12 season, Central is looking to make a return to the post-season this coming February. Four starters — seniors Colby Gatchell, Zach Schnitzler and Evan Stauffer and sophomore Matt Walsh (6-foot-4) — and sixth man, senior Jacoby Brumbach, are returning to the floor to help them toward that goal.
"I like (this team) a lot," Barons’ fifth-year boss Chris Sherwood said. "We get hard-working kids at Manheim Central. Everybody’s back and our practices are really, really competitive and we’ve missed that for a long time … Last year, we were young and close games got away from us. And our job this year is to make sure those close games don’t get away from us. Our goals remain the same. Our goals remain to be competitive in every single game. Our Section (Three) is loaded. Donegal can have District champion aspirations. L-S is still very good. Northern Lebanon and Garden Spot are very good opponents. I mean, I think we have as good of a top to bottom as you can ask for in the L-L League."
The Manheim Central boys graduated three seniors from 2011-12, including leading scorer Jordan Mellinger (12.0 ppg, team-best 30 treys), Ryan Wilson and Philip Wubbolt.
But adding depth for this year’s Barons’ squad are sophomores Tony Staffieri (6-foot-0 guard) and Daniel Wiederrecht (5-foot-9 guard), and junior 5-foot-11 guard Steven Young. Other sophomores on the roster are Tanner Brenize, Colin Brubaker, Logan Kready and Derick Ruhl. Brenize and Wiederrecht recently finished a full season competing with the Barons’ varsity soccer and football teams, respectively.
"We’re now at a point where we have a sophomore class that is really athletic, it’s really competitive," Sherwood said. "It just makes everything better … When you have seniors and they’ve been playing other sports and they’ve been with you, that’s one thing and yes, that’s great to have. But we actually have sophomores who have been competing at varsity levels in other sports. That helps us."
What the Barons don’t have a lot of, however, is height, with Walsh being their biggest player, and one who has guard-like skills in a 6-foot-4 body, according to Sherwood. Central’s boss said, in fact, that the Central boys will be completely guard-oriented on the floor this winter.
"The size can be an issue, but I’m also a believer that guards win games for you," Sherwood remarked. "Obviously, there are those big guys that are dominant in our league, and when I say the league, I mean the whole league — all four Sections. But I think ultimately, guards win games for you."
Stauffer, the MC boys’ leading returning scorer with an 11.1 ppg average last year, will figure into Central’s wins this winter. The 6-foot-0 guard certainly caused some anxiety for opposing coaches in 2011-12, including Palmyra boss Pete Conrad, a friend of Sherwood’s.
"We played (Palmyra) last year," Sherwood remarked, "and he told me that he used a descriptive word of Evan in his scouting report that I think fits him perfect. He’s ‘slippery.’ He’s not overly quick, but he’s just slippery. He can get to the basket. He finishes really well. He shoots the ball. He can create a little bit. He’s just slippery."
Even without a lot of size on the roster, Sherwood believes that his team could give opponents some fits. He likes the mixture of players that they have on the floor, and he’s confident that they can isolate someone like Schnitzler on the post at times and let him outmuscle his defender.
"I think we will be tough to defend," Sherwood said. "Colby (29 treys in 2011-12) is an excellent perimeter shooter. Matt Walsh, like I said, is a guard in a 6-4 body. Evan’s our returning leading scorer. And then the other guys do some things that complementary players should do. Zach is tough as nails. Jacoby does everything right when it comes to rebounding and finishing around the basket and even cutting in our offense. So we have some guys that have some intangibles and then we have some skill guys who can shoot the ball. Matt can really shoot the ball."
The Barons starting five are also what Sherwood calls a "very smart unit."
"Our turnovers should be low, and when your turnovers are low, you’re giving yourself a chance to win a game," Sherwood said. "We’re playing guys who have experience."
In Staffieri, Wiederrecht and Young, the Barons will have an athletic bench.
"I think that when we bring in those three guys, we become even a little bit more dangerous for opponents on the defensive end," Sherwood said, "because we become a little more athletic and we have some things up our sleeve to try to neutralize that height disadvantage."
If the Central boys can neutralize those close losses that they suffered a year ago and swing them the other way this winter, they will take a big step toward getting back to the playoffs. The Barons suffered four losses in 2011-12 by just five points or less.
They will have their work cut out for them early on with eight games in the first 15 days of the season, starting with the Hamburg Tip-Off Tourney on Dec. 7-8.
Then, of course, the road to the Section Three title will go through defending champ Lampeter-Strasburg, a State qualifier last year with a 22-6 record, with Donegal hoping to challenge and a formidable Section slate top to bottom in the mix.
But the Barons are hoping to make some noise of their own with a veteran group back in the saddle this winter.
"We are going to bust our hump to try to get one of those playoff spots out of Section Three," Sherwood said. "Ultimately, our goal is to play for a playoff spot. Whether we’re playing for a Section playoff spot or a District playoff spot, we’re going to compete every night and try to get one of those playoff spots. We went 10-12 last year and some games slipped through our fingers. If we can get those games back that slipped through our fingers, they’re going to have to put us in the District playoffs. The style we play is not going to be something that someone sees every day, with five guys with guard-like skills. And I think that makes us tough to defend at times." More BARONS, page B-3