July 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Pirates must almost start from scratch

SULLIVAN TWP. — The Black River boys basketball team lost its entire starting lineup from a season ago.

The Pirates, who went 8-13 overall and 5-8 in the Patriot Athletic Conference, will have to make up for the graduation of second-team all-league selections Joe Tutie (11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Jon Sas (10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg), as well as honorable mention choice Jake O’Connor (9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg).

Black River’s John Guilford blocks out against Buckeye. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

That won’t be easy, but four letterwinners are in the fold, including 6-foot-4 senior center John Guilford, who pulled down 4.3 rebounds and blocked 1.3 shots a game a season ago.

“His length, his strength and his athleticism bring a lot to the table,” second-year coach Don Brunker said.

Also back is 5-8 junior Gus Kazek, who will start in the backcourt and run the show a large portion of the time.

“Gus Kazek has shown terrific underclassman leadership,” Brunker said. “The seniors have shown a lot of character as well.”

Two of those seniors — 6-4 perimeter player Dean Finkel and 6-4 post Tom Ziebro — round out Black River’s list of returning lettermen and figure to join Guilford and Kazek in the starting lineup.

Five newcomers are also battling for playing time. Juniors in the mix are 6-5 Jared Herb, 6-1 Dakota Kuntz and 6-0 Zach Sword. Tyler Totter, a 6-3 sophomore, and 6-1 classmate Stephen Zumack will also see action.

“They’re working well together,” Brunker said. “With many of the kids coming in from football, attitudes have been good and the effort has been high.”

On the down side, the Pirates aren’t a real seasoned group, as even some of their letterwinners didn’t play much last season.

“We’re going to be inexperienced,” Brunker said.

Black River, however, does have some big bodies, which should help in the PAC.

“We’re planning to make use of (our size),” Brunker said. “The players have set the goal to be a .500 team. There will be some strong competition in our conference.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.