ASSUMPTION HILL – We’re all cyclical. But the smaller the school, the bigger the swings.
The Lebanon Catholic boys’ basketball program hasn’t had a really good team in a few seasons. The Beavers are just about due for ‘one of those years’.
After back-to-back seasons of searching for improvement – and sometimes not locating it – the Beavers are poised for a return to prominence. Personnel-wise, Catholic should be deep, balanced and versatile this season.
“For us, the last two years were kind of a learning process,” said Scott Clentimack, who’s in his 15th season of coaching Lebanon Catholic. “We were really young. At this level, when you play four or five freshmen against juniors and seniors you’re not going to fare real well. What you’ve got to do is see the bigger picture, and know our time is coming. But you can’t say, ‘Two years from now we’re going to be good.’
“But I give these kids a lot of credit,” Clentimack continued. “They work hard and they understand the maturation process. I think they know why we didn’t win. We know it’s a different year, but we don’t want to forget about last year.”
With a young crew, Lebanon Catholic went 5-17 a year ago. It was a bit of a disappointment in that the Beavers also went 5-17 the year before. LCHS simply wasn’t as good as it could’ve been or should’ve been in 2011-12.
“Last year, we didn’t know how to win,” added Clentimack. “We didn’t develop enough. But our two scrimmages (in the preseason) have given us a little confidence. I think a light bulb has gone off. It’s like they figured it out somehow.”
Catholic hasn’t graduated a senior in two years, and although its current crop of players has taken their lumps, they are seasoned. The Beavers will be led by senior point guard Timmy Orr, a four-year contributor who has really grown into his leadership role.
For the first time in three seasons, Orr leading the Beavers is a luxury, not a necessity.
“Timmy’s had an advantage because he played a lot as a freshman,” Clentimack said. “The last two years Timmy’s been in a tough spot. He’s been thrust into a position where he’s had to assume a role of leadership. I’d like him to be a little more vocal, but that’s not his personality. His basketball IQ has kicked in. He sets the tone on what he does in practice.
“I think they (all his players) need to be good for us to have a good year,” Clentimack continued. “Timmy’s someone who has been pretty consistent. Yeah, he has to be good for us to be good, but so does everyone else. The last few years we went as Timmy went.”
The Beavers’ depth has been improved by the addition of two transfers, 6-2 junior forward Anthony Pletz, and 5-10 junior guard Anthony Thomas. With 6-0 junior forward Alex Frattaroli, 5-6 junior guard Jaylon Colon, 5-6 junior guard Drew Gates, 6-0 junior forward Iain Moyer and 6-0 sophomore forward John Gorh, Lebanon Catholic already had a solid nucleus with which to work.
Perhaps the Beavers’ biggest loss from last year is the absence of 6-4 junior forward Matt Kern, who chose not to come out in order to focus on baseball.
“For me, I think there’s a lot of skill there,” said Clentimack. “We’re not locked into guys who can do one thing. They’re all pretty good players. Even though we don’t have a lot of height, we have a lot of length. I think it’s a pretty versatile group.
“The thing I see in this group is their ability and willingness to share the ball,” Clentimack added. “This team has really, really, really good chemistry. All of my good teams have had a willingness to share the ball. They’re unselfish, but they don’t pass too much. They know when to shoot and when to pass.”
Annually, Lebanon Catholic’s goals revolve around the District Three Class A playoffs. In his 15 years at the helm, Clentimack’s Beavers have qualified for the Lancaster-Lebanon league playoffs twice and won three District Three Class A crowns.
“I think we’re going to compete for a district championship, but we’ve got to get there first,” said Clentimack. “They changed the format, so they don’t take as many teams (to districts). When we get to districts, we want to win it. We don’t necessarily sit down and talk about it, but it’s in the back of everyone’s mind.
“In order to get to point ‘B’, you’ve got to start at point ‘A’,” added Clentimack. “With the people we play during the season, we’re not going to play against that level of team in districts. We try to stay grounded and not get ahead of ourselves. But playing against good competition is only going to make us better. But we’re not going to be good because we’re talking about it. I happens by going out and working at it.”
Lebanon Catholic will begin its quest on Saturday, December 8th at 2 p.m. when it hosts Lebanon County’s other PIAA Class A school, New Covenant.
“I don’t think anyone’s where they need to be yet,” said Clentimack. “Everything we do, whether it’s offense, defense or special situations, is already in. We had two really good scrimmages. We were pretty dominant. I think the kids are seeing that we’re pretty good. I think they want to go out there and prove they’re good beyond just on paper.”
Sure he’d like more numbers. Sure Clentimack would like it to be less cyclical. But the bottom line is, basketball is still king on Assumption Hill.
“Yeah, I am pleased with its direction,” said Clentimack of his program. “Is it perfect? No. Here’s what what gives me satisifaction: We’ve won three district championships since I’ve been here, which is three more than any other boys’ team around here. We’ve had our moments, in spite of the fact that we don’t have the advantages of some of the other schools.
“We have 12 kids,” Clentimack continued. “We don’t get to pick players through try-outs. But we might win a district championship. We want to control the things we can control. We make the best of what we got. Where we’re affected most is by numbers. You don’t have that transition from year-to-year where you plug in players.
“I’ve been real pleased. It’s been 15 years and we’ve accomplished some great things. I’ve been lucky to have some great kids to deal with. They’re just a pleasure to be around. I enjoy being around them and I think they enjoy being around me.”