Bishop Dwenger brings retro style to boys hoops debut
OSSIAN – Back in the dark ages, also known as the 1980s, high school basketball teams that started a lineup with four 6-foot-4 or taller players ruled the earth.
The Bishop Dwenger Saints are going retro, and it just might pay off.
Dwenger’s returning starters 6-9 senior Lucas Lehrman, 6-5 junior Hayden Smithey and 6-4 senior John Henry Reith are now joined by 6-5 senior David McComb, along with 5-11 junior Matt Kochanski, in one of the taller, leaner lineups in the area.
With the schedule pushed back a bit due to the football team’s run to the semistate, Dwenger finally opened the season with a 48-41 win over Norwell on Tuesday at Norwell.
“Before the game, I told them I knew it was not going to be a work of art,” Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff said. “We needed to play with a lot of effort and a lot of energy and hit the boards, and we did. To end the game 9-for-9 from the foul line is huge. We got good lifts from everybody.”
Dwenger was fairly guard-oriented over the past two seasons, so there is a shift in the approach underway with a taller, perhaps more defensive-oriented, lineup.
It starts with Lehrman, who has already committed to Indiana Tech. If he can put together a night-in, night-out statistical line the way he did against Norwell, he’ll make an consistent impact. Lehrman scored 15 points with seven blocked shots, six rebounds and four assists. He played the latter part of the game with four fouls.
“He’s great on help-side (defense),” Smithey said. “He’s a shot-blocker and tonight, obviously, that really helped us out. We can go out and pressure guards knowing he has our back.”
Norwell has two players within striking distance of Dwenger’s height – 6-7 junior Brandon Nicholson and 6-4 sophomore Will Geiger – but they found navigating inside against Lehrman a challenge. Geiger led Norwell (2-2) with 19 points. Nicholson scored eight.
“A lot of those (blocks) were against me,” Geiger said. “He’s pretty tough. I tried to drive a lot. If I didn’t shot fake, he’d get up there and block my shot no matter how far away he was.”
Norwell coach Mike McBride seconded the idea of Lehrman’s length being a pivotal factor.
“He had good timing on a lot of his blocks,” McBride said. “I didn’t think there were too many where he got away with anything. A lot were good blocks. A couple times, you’re down there close, you think you have an opportunity to score, and it’s blocked. That leads to transition and it makes it hard because you’re having empty trips.”
Lehrman said he entered the season looking to find ways to make a bigger impact on both ends of the court.
“I’m trying to create more of an inside presence in the post,” Lehrman said. “Score more in the post, make more inside-outside passes to help the team’s ball movement.”
Norwell was able to find ways to deal with Dwenger’s size advantage for three quarters, taking a 30-27 lead into the fourth. But Dwenger outscored the Knights 21-11 in the fourth quarter.
Smithey finished with 14 points, hitting a pair of threes to add the outside to the inside-outside game. Lehrman scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter and Lehrman, Smithey and Kochanski hit free throws in the final period. Kochanski scored seven points, freshman Brenden Lytle six and McComb five.
“I think it’s going to be hard to score on us and we’re going to be able to pound the ball inside against teams that don’t have nearly as much size as Lucas, John Henry and myself,” Smithey said. “Also, rebounding can be a big weapon of our. I think that’s what’s going to carry us.”
Dwenger finished 12-11 last season and was knocked out of the sectional by New Haven for the second straight season.
Smithey believes the new, old-school approach could make for a different ending when March arrives.
“If we play as a team, move the ball, don’t get stagnant and play our game,” Smithey said, “we could make a very long run.”