Warriors look to challenge in Section One

By on December 7, 2016
Guard Alex Lalovic (right) is one of five seniors returning on the Warwick boys basketball roster this winter.

Guard Alex Lalovic (right) is one of five seniors returning on the Warwick boys basketball roster this winter.

Chris Christensen’s first season as head coach of the Warwick boys basketball team in 2015-16 wasn’t without its challenges.

His Warriors lost six games by five points or less.

And they ended the season with a 4-19 overall record, including 2-14 in Section One.

“They went through some adversity last year,” Christensen said, “and we’re not ready to go through that again. I think our guys are ready.”

Ready to get back on the winning track. And certainly, there are guys back from that squad that don’t need to be reminded of those bumps.

Among the returnees this winter are six or seven players who started at least one game, including two of their top four leading scorers in seniors Alex Lalovic (11.5 ppg) and Tyler Trimarchi (6.9 ppg).

“I think our our strengths are experience this year,” Christensen said. “That’s a big advantage for us to have guys that have been through this.”

Warwick’s skipper, in fact, believes that they will have one of the Section’s top backcourts. Between the point guard, shooting guard and small forward spots will be the likes of Lalovic (6-foot-1) and Trimarchi (6-0), along with seniors Will Mobley (5-9), Ethan Price (5-10) and Kyle Weaver (5-9), and junior Carter Forney (6-0).

“Those guys,” Christensen said, “are going to be taking the majority of those minutes as I see it now.”

Price has opened eyes with the improvement that he’s shown since the end of last season.

“Ethan had a really impressive off-season,” Christensen remarked. “He played in the AAU program with Doug Kraft and I think that helped him a lot. I think he’s extremely improved from his junior year, and as far as practices go, he’s been a vocal leader, he’s making it easy for me being a coach on the floor. So I’m real excited about him.”

Although the Warriors graduated their leading scorer from 2015-16 in Kyle A. Weaver (11.6 ppg, 23 three-pointers) and third-leading point-getter Colin Gibble (10.9 ppg, 24 treys), they still have offensive threats on their roster.

Mobley — a Section One First-Team All-Star in both football and soccer this fall — is returning to the court for the first time since his freshman season, although he’s continued to play AAU ball.

Lalovic and Trimarchi combined for 81 triples one year ago, but outside shooting isn’t their only asset.

“Tyler’s worked a lot on a pump fake,” Christensen said, “one-dribble, two-dribble pull-ups. With Alex, we’ve really been on him about finishing and getting to the basket and going strong and trying to get him to understand that you can get a lot of points at the foul line.”

Inside, the Warrior boys look to get contributions from juniors Nate Martin (6-foot-5) and Bryan Rottkamp (6-0), and sophomore Hayden Rucci (6-5), among others. Forney and Lalovic could also play power forward positions.

“I think Hempfield probably has two big guys, but we’re right there as far as our size,” Christensen said. “There’s not really anybody that has a real dominant inside guy. Manheim Township’s tall, but I wouldn’t say they’re dominant inside.”

Rucci is one of three players in a solid sophomore class, joining forward Trysten George and guard Ryan Shirk.

“Our 10th-grade is really talented,” Christensen said. “It’s competitive.”

Besides their experience, team quickness also figures to be a strength for Warwick this winter.

“We can fly,” Christensen said. “So you’ll see small lineups where we’ll get out running and Bryan Rottkamp is part of those lineups. But he does a great job rebounding. Hayden will hopefully come along. He will probably be Nate’s replacement. He’s obviously a tough guy, and we’re looking forward to what he’s going to be able to bring as far as athleticism inside, a shot blocker, and a rebounder.”

Warwick’s boss doesn’t have any concerns about being able to score the ball. He doesn’t foresee having a go-to guy on the offensive end of the court, but rather multiple options who can score points.

“I think our best offensive players are Alex and Tyler,” Christensen said, “but we’re really not forcing it anywhere. It’s, ‘You take your shots, you know your game.’ I think those two will probably take the majority of the shots, but don’t be surprised if they’re not the leading scorer. Nate Martin is very capable inside, Bryan Rottkamp’s worked tirelessly on his jump shot this off-season, so all those guys can score. I’m not concerned as much about us scoring the ball as I am us stopping. I think we have enough athleticism and enough ability offensively. It’s really going to come down to defense for us and can we buckle up and stop some people?”

To that end, Christensen and his staff have invested a lot of time working on defense not only during the off-season, but also since pre-season practices got underway Nov. 11.

Last season, with a new offensive system to implement, the Warriors’ defense, which yielded an average of 61.9 ppg, might not have received enough attention. That has changed this winter, and Christensen is already noticing improvements.

“The guys are responding to it,” Christensen said. “They seem to be making a dedication to playing D. I’m excited about it. Obviously, I think we still have work to do, but we’re going in the right direction on that side of the game.”

It’s a path that the Warriors are hopeful will lead them back to the post-season. Christensen wants his players’ focus to be one game at a time, but he admits that their long-term goals are to still be playing beyond the regular-season finale Feb. 7 at Manheim Township.

“I expect our guys to bring it every night,” Christensen said, “and that’s how you’ve got to be as a 6A school in Section One. Even your non-league schedule, you’ve got to bring it every night. But I think we’re ready to do that. ,,, I would be disappointed if we were not a District playoff team. I believe we have the ability where that should happen.”

Christensen believes there is a lot of parity in a newly realigned Section One field this winter. This year, the L-L is back to three Sections, instead of four, with the top three finishers getting berths to the League playoffs.

“Skill-wise, I think it’s very different than last year,” Christensen said. “I think Hempfield probably brings back a lot of guys and has a lot of talent, so I would say, in my opinion, they’re probably the most talented team. And after that, I think it’s wide open … That’s our goal (is to place top three). With the new alignment of Sections, it gives you another opportunity, in my opinion. But I believe we can battle for one of those spots — that’s our goal and our guys believe it and the coaching staff believes it. So that’s what we’re shooting for.”

 

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