By Pete Chiodo
It’s the same round, the same venue, and the same two combatants as the General McLane and Beaver boys basketball teams meet up in the PIAA Class AAA second round for the second year in a row today at 7:30 p.m. at Sharon High School.
Last season, McLane ousted Beaver 68-54 to advance to the state quarterfinals.
This year, Lancers head coach Andy Schulz is careful not too count any unhatched chickens. Beaver can be tricky.
“They’re just a different type of team than we’ve seen,” said Schulz. “It’s always about matchups at this point. And (Beaver) is a very up-and-down team. They’re very offensive minded. They like to push the ball as fast as they can.
“Hopefully,” he added, “we can play with any style. (Today) it’s going to be a faster pace than we’ve seen in quite some time, probably since the East game.”
Beaver comes into the game with a record of 20-4 and the fourth seed out of the WPIAL. The Badgers advanced to the second round with a 60-46 victory over District 9 champion Bradford this past Friday.
Beaver’s senior guard Austin Logan scored a game-high 20 points against Bradford. Senior forward Corey Nesmith followed with 13.
Both of those guys had decent games against McLane last year. Nesmith scored 11. Logan had seven.
Leading the Badgers in last year’s showdown was 6-foot-5 center Aaron Barlow, a senior this season, who scored 16.
“They have a big kid inside, Barlow,” said Schulz. “He’s 6-5, 220-pounds or something like that. He’s a big strong kid. He’s really good on the offensive rebounds. And their swingman, Nesmith, is explosive to the basket.
“It’s going to be a different type of game — not possession-to-possession, but more open court. We’ll have to do a good job defending and a good job on the boards.”
The Lancers (21-5) should have a good counter for Barlow with 6-5 senior Quinn Thompson getting the start under the hoop and 6-5 junior Brett Kulka coming in off the bench.
And the Lancers certainly have the wheels to keep up in a fast paced game. Guards Marcus Erdman, Lucas Hallett and Clay Smith can each move well. And there are few faster than McLane senior phenom Jaymon Mason, who is coming off a 32-point game against Thomas Jefferson in Friday’s first round.
Mason, who is good to go today after injuring an ankle on Friday, is averaging 26.0 points per game in four postseason appearances this year.
The 6-foot-3 senior also led the way last year against Beaver with 22 points. Thompson scored 12.
McLane had two other players in double digits in that 2012 game — Chad Kulka scored 14 and Josh Ponsoll scored 10 — but they both graduated after last season.
Yet, it’s not so much points that Schulz is concerned about. He’s looking more for a responsive effort on defense and an aggressive approach off the glass for the rematch with the Badgers.
“The two keys for us will be getting back on defense and limiting them from taking easy shots or getting layups on the transition,” said Schulz, “and getting on the boards. Those are the two areas we need to concentrate on.”