SUSSEX — When a sports program has several experienced senior players on its roster, many fans may automatically assume the team will reach a certain level of success.
But, that’s not always the case as in some instances, members of the senior class of a high school or college team will have a negative attitude that permeates through the rest of the players on the squad and ultimately leads to a less than productive season.
The High Point High School boys' basketball team had several seniors in its lineup this winter and they met the expectations set forth by the coaching staff, which in turn led to many memorable victories on the court for the Wildcats.
“All of the seniors were excellent leaders this year — Tim O'Malley, Mike Zukswert, Brandon Potucek, Adam Walton, Matt Rittweger, Kyle Adams and Kevin Lawson," High Point coach Jesse Strehl said. “They set a great example all season long for the younger players to follow.’’
The student-athletes that coach Strehl mentioned above were a big reason the Wildcats finished the season with an impressive overall mark of 16-7, including a 7-7 record in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference American Division.
High Point also advanced to the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North I Group II Sectional Tournament before losing a 54-51 game to top-seeded Westwood. Pascack Hills went on to defeat Westwood in the North I Group II Sectional Tournament championship round.
Strehl vividly remembers those games where the Wildcats were at their best this winter.
“Defeating Wayne Hills and Kinnelon to win the Wallkill Valley Christmas Tournament, [it was our] first Christmas Tournament championship since 2003," Strehl said. “Beating Montville on a buzzer-beater tip-in by Lawson and beating Newton on a buzzer-beater layup by Brad Smolen off an assist from Brandon Potucek [were memorable wins].
“[Also], our playoff run — beating Hopatcong and Dumont at home to reach the sectional semifinal against Westwood [was memorable]. The students and staff gave us great support at the games at home and on the road during this stretch."
Strehl mentioned a few players who made continual positive strides throughout the course of the season.
“Lawson made a great commitment to improve his conditioning and stamina," Strehl said. "He went from a junior varsity player to starter for us because of his hard work in the offseason. Smolen became a starter for us by the end of the season as a sophomore-providing another scorer and he was an excellent defender."
The loss of the graduating class of 2014 will certainly be felt by the Wildcats, but Strehl is optimistic for next season.
“We are losing seven seniors who will be tough to replace and definitely be missed," Strehl said. “However, we have many promising young players who are hungry to compete for varsity minutes. Many of our players are already starting the process of working for next season. They are in the weight room and have signed up for various AAU teams."