Todd Outman has not encountered many problems since becoming Wellsboro's boys basketball coach three seasons ago. He has led the Green Hornets to two straight NTL West championships and 41 wins.
This preseason, though, Outman finally found a problem. The third-year coach said his team was being too unselfish. As problems go on a scale of 1-10, it's probably rates a one. In fact, it's not a bad problem to have.
Wellsboro put its unselfishness to good use at the South Williamsport Tournament last week, defeating Muncy and South by 37 combined points while capturing the inaugural championship. The Hornets have four starters back from last year's 20-4 team and showed that they are as cohesive as they are talented with two wins over quality teams.
"The kids' court vision is really good and we've been working on that a lot because we're having some problems where we're penetrating too far at times, but (this weekend) they seemed to be penetrating at the right time and that was really causing everyone to shift over. The kids are quick and a little above average ball-handlers and they can cause some problems."
Wellsboro averaged 69 points in its wins and its balance is a big strength. Senior point guard Jordan Jackson is one of the area's best but has plenty of help. Dylan Prough, Matt Reese, Joey Doganiero, Michael Pietropola and Kieron Smethers also played well and are capable of big games every night out. Doganiero scored a game-high 19 points against Muncy while Prough had a double-double and Smethers added five rebounds and five assists. All five starters reached double figures in at least one game.
The Hornets executed well in the second half of both wins and blew open what had been a close game against South, outscoring it 38-21 in the second half. It was an impressive performance against a team that eliminated it in last year's District 4 Class AA quarterfinals. It also could point toward good things to come.
Because the team is so balanced and gets along so well that has led to being too unselfish in the past. Instead of taking the easy shot, the Hornets have made one too many passes. But when just the right amount of passing is going on, Wellsboro is tough to stop. And fun to watch.
"That is a great team," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "That is probably one of the best teams we will see all year."
And what started out as a potential problem could become a huge strength.
GOOD REVIEWS: South and Muncy had plenty of questions entering the opening weekend. South had to replace nearly every contributor from last year while Muncy is playing without its top two scorers from last year. While it is still ridiculously early to tell where their seasons are going, both South and Muncy showed plenty of promise.
The Mounties had just one player, Riley Hengler, who was part of last year's rotation playing last weekend. Still, the Mounties looked good in a 75-57 win over Canton before hanging with Wellsboro throughout the first half. South might experience some growing pains as so many players are getting their first varsity experience but there is a lot of potential there, not just for this season but the next few as well.
"There's potential for this year and, looking ahead, a lot of these guys will get to play together for hopefully 50 games or so," South coach Matt Fisher said. "We had three more sophomores on the floor that haven't played before (Friday) and they did well and were communicating which was good to see. We're trying to get guys comfortable with playing at this level and they did well."
Muncy played mostly iron-man basketball last year so new starters Nick Ring and Teddy Clark received their first significant varsity action as did reserve Jeff Scott. All played well too. Ring looks like he could be a force inside and recorded consecutive double-doubles in his first two starts while Scott and Clark showed some nice versatility.
Early Friday, it looked like Wellsboro would rout Muncy but the Indians kept fighting back and trailed by five points or fewer for much of the game. Returning starters Ammar Sabanovic, Billy Kolletzki and Dawson Fox all performed well and a team that reached states last year showed no fear as well as a relentless attitude that could serve it well all season. Sabanovic is one of the area's premier point guards and had 12 assists in Saturday's 65-44 win over Canton.
"They did a nice job and there are things we can work on and that's the key," Gresh said. "Nick played really well. Jeff Scott gave me great minutes off the bench and I couldn't ask for more from him. Getting this experience and getting their eyes used to it and getting them used to the season is huge."
PUTBACKS: St. John Neumann played well despite missing some key players in Saturday's 63-45 win at North Penn. Alize Johnson is playing under the basket this year, but has plenty of guard qualities and scored 21 points, while grabbing eight rebounds, dealing eight assists and blocking two shots ... Cowanesque Valley could be a team to watch this season. There are some promising new players, along with some quality veterans and that mix helped the Indians capture their tournament championship as they defeated Northern Potter and Bucktail. Three players averaged in double figures with Josh Nudd scoring a career-high 20 points in a 64-54 final win over the Bucks ... Hughesville held off West Perry, 52-48 to take third place at the Mifflinburg Tournament. The Spartans avoided a second straight 0-2 start which could be good for their collective psyche. Fred Newhart has a nice all-around game and scored 16 points in the win.
Dr. Masse's area top five
1. Williamsport (2-0): The Millionaires made a nice early statement, capturing the William Penn York Tournament for the first time in seven years while beating annual Class AAAA heavyweights Reading and William Penn York. Tournament MVP Jahad Thomas averaged 24 points in the wins while Isaiah Washington and Chris Kinley also had some big games. Herb Stelly and Achilles Watson are two players who could make a big difference this year and both made impacts in the wins. Watson has a lot of upside and scored 10 points against York in the final. Williamsport has three home games this week against Crestwood, Wilkes-Barre GAR and Westinghouse. If he stands are not packed I would be surprised because this is a fun team to watch.
2. Loyalsock (1-0): The Lancers pulled away from Jersey Shore and earned a convincing 74-51 in their season opener. The defending District 4 Class AA champions displayed nice balance and coach Ron Insinger has to be impressed with the performances of Ben Sosa and Mike Pastore. Sosa scored a career-high 17 points in his first start at forward while Pastore added 11 points off the bench. Omar Little scored a career-high 19 points while Roger Wilson and Kyle Datres had double-doubles. Loyalsock is off until Friday and faces a good test at home against Class AAAA Central Mountain.
3. Lewisburg (0-0): The Green Dragons are not easing into their schedule, going on the road Tuesday and Thursday to face Shikellamy and South Williamsport. The Braves reached last year's District 4 Class AAA final and South finished fourth in Class AA.
4. Wellsboro (2-0): While the Hornets are an experienced team they still are somewhat young. Jackson and Reese are the only seniors in the rotation so this program could continue flourishing the next few years.
"We've been in some tight situations before. We know how to handle those situations and get out," Prough said. "We have a lot of strengths. We have a lot of weaknesses too, but those are things we can fix."
5. Sullivan County (2-0): The defending District 4 Class A champions are off to a good start after capturing their second straight Towanda Tournament championship. Like last year, the Griffins built their success around stifling defense and held both Towanda and Mansfield below 40 points. Conner Wylie often was huge off the bench last year and the forward could have a big season. Wylie was Sullivan's leading scorer last weekend and also grabbed a team-high 17 rebounds. Point guard Kelby Mullen also played well, averaging 12 points and seven rebounds.
Players of the Week
Jordan Jackson, Wellsboro and Jahad Thomas, Williamsport: I took the easy way out here since I could not make up my mind. Jackson is a terrific point guard and earned South Tournament MVP honors after scoring 35 points. He had nine rebounds and seven assists against Muncy. Thomas was outstanding in both Williamsport wins and really can do it all on the court. Division I colleges might think Thomas is just a power forward but he really can play any position and is one of the state's most well-rounded players.
Game of the Week
South Williamsport at Hughesville: A good local rivalry is renewed Tuesday and this should be an interesting matchup between teams that have the potential to be major district playoff players. Hughesville won a memorable district semifinal over South the last time they played in 2010 after South made a huge comeback. It also is a Jersey Shore reunion as former Bulldog standouts Matt Fisher and Nick Tagliaferri coach South and Hughesville.