Boys fall to Eagles
The Nazareth boys basketball team poses problems for a lot of their opponents, and their combination of size and skill was a lethal one-two punch last Friday as they knocked out the Zephyrs in conference action.
The Blue Eagles held a size advantage at every position, and when the soft perimeter touch of Zach Umar, who stands 6-foot-7, and the rugged interior play of Stephon Sheard, who is 6-foot-5, is added to the mix, that’s difficult for any team to overcome.
Whitehall felt the impact of both those components as Nazareth got a combined 29 points from that pair en route to their 68-50 win last Friday at Zephyr Gymnasium.
The loss puts the Zephyrs at 7-11 with four games remaining on their schedule as of Jan. 28.
Senior Joe Herman said that when encountering a team that imposes problems with their size, everyone has to box out defensively. He said it’s especially imperative when playing a good shooter like Umar, who can follow his own miss and grab the offensive rebound for the put back. They just needed to put a body on people in those situations.
Head coach Jeff Jones said that Nazareth’s potent punch of Umar and Sheard is complemented by Noah Briggs on the perimeter whose length and skill also presents problems. Toss in Anthony Harris at the point who attacks the basket and is a good finisher, and the Blue Eagles “have pretty much everything,” said Jones.
Whitehall started to make some inroads in the second half as it decided to trap, causing a number of turnovers. They were frustrating Sheard into some bad decisions on the perimeter and they capitalized on the turnovers, eventually trimming Nazareth’s lead to 54-47 after Shyhiem Foster’s three-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
Jones said that his decision to trap, something he’s been wary of doing in the past against a taller team because they can throw over the trap, was done out of necessity.
“It was kind of what we had to do,” said Jones. “You have to try and make them a little more uncomfortable.”
They were trailing by double digits throughout much of the game, and Jones believed that his team needed to take some chances defensively. They found success executing the trap, and started to chip away at the lead, getting buckets from Na’Mirr Boatwright (four points) and Foster (6 points) during that span.
Jones said that he employed a smaller lineup at that point so they could be quicker and more disruptive.
“When you do that you get some turnovers, but obviously you suffer on the boards,” said Jones. “Unfortunately, you can’t have everything, you have to pick and choose. I just felt like at that point in the game, we had to take some chances.”
Ultimately, the Eagles were able to withstand the pressure, and went on a 10-0 run after Whitehall got to within seven. It was another case of the Zephyrs getting back into the game, but a few missed shots seemed to deflate them.
“We were there the whole time, just like we are every game,” said Herman who finished the game with five points. “I just feel like once we miss a couple of shots, our confidence goes down and we go, ‘here we go again, here it goes.’”
Herman said that they need to shake those doubts if they want to make the playoffs. That possibility is still within their grasp, but hey need to win their remaining games, and one the biggest issue facing them is believing they can win when they stop onto the floor.
“We have to keep that confidence high the whole time so we can get those next four wins,” said Herman.
Herman said that he doesn’t want their season to end early.
The Zephyrs were once again led by Dylan McGinley who finished with 16 points. Tyler Holubowski added seven, while Rick Melosky scored six and Joe Lisicky dropped in four.