Upper Perk's Stephen Bell wraps up with a Golden Panthers player trying to recover a loose ball, with Chad Ford assisting in the battle, during last Thursday night's home game.
When the Upper Perkiomen boys' basketball team took the court against Pope John Paul II last Thursday, the result was almost pre-ordained.
On one side of the court, you had the currently undefeated, defending Pac-10 champions featuring nine seniors. At the other end was winless Upper Perk trying to find its way under new head coach Ed Lapinski.
Predictably, the Tribe (0-3, 0-7) was taken to the woodshed by the visitors in a 61-34 rout that exposed the two main areas the team has to improve on.
“They pressure the ball very well, and they move without the ball. Those are two things we struggle with, so there’s your game,” Lapinski said after the game.
Pope John Paul (3-0, 6-0) never gave the Tribe a chance. Guards David Cotellese and Brent Mahoney combined for three treys to fuel an 11-2 blitz three minutes into the game, and PJP utilized a full court press to race out to a 19-4 lead after the first quarter.
The Golden Panthers kept the Tribe’s big man, J.D. Ricapito (11 points), away from the basket. A frustrated Ricapito was one for seven from the field during the quarter.
In the second quarter, Mahoney (game high 20 points) hit a layup and a long three-pointer to help boost the PJP lead to 26-6 before Upper Perk displayed some offensive consistency and battled the visitors on more than even terms until the end of the half which ended with the Tribe trailing 33-14.
Robbie Hinson scored five points, including a three, during the period.
But at the start of the second half, the Tribe once again was guilty of turning the ball over; they would register 20 for the game. The score was 50-20 at the end of the third quarter, and by the early stages of the fourth quarter, both coaches had cleared their benches.
For Lapinski, it was chance to glimpse what he hopes will be a bright future. The Upper Perk subs, including ninth graders Matt Ruskey and Nathan Weinstein, outpointed the Golden Panthers 14-11 during their time in the game.
“There’s a lot of freshman that play together, and they’ve played together for a long time,” Lapinski noted. “What I’m looking for to build this program is the future ahead. If we get the right mentality, and the kids believe in themselves, and have guys playing in the same system for a few years, there’s a future ahead.”
Ruskey and Weinstein scored two points apiece and sophomore Joe Holtje contributed four in the final quarter as they made the most of their chances to impress their head coach and prove that they can be trusted in closer game situations.
In the shorter term, though, Lapinski was looking for his team to put this game behind them, use this week’s Christmas Tournament in Radnor to correct their weaknesses, and develop some mental toughness before visiting Pottstown and Methacton next week.
Lapinski wants the team to understand “there’s more to life than just basketball. Tomorrow’s another day, and we’ll get ready for our next game. We live on a thing called the ‘next play’, and we struggle with that, because kids hang their heads for a while. You have to move on. We need to get better as the season goes on.”