Familiarity key to Bulldog boys' basketball resurgence

This article is part of a continuing series previewing the Clarion County boys' basketball teams for the 2019-20 season.

By Ryan S. Pugh

CLARION NEWS Sports

Editor

NEW BETHLEHEM

To most people, Jan. 23, 2019 might not mean much but it will be a day which will be remembered by the Redbank Valley boys' basketball team and Bulldogs' head coach Emmanuel Marshall.

The reason the date is significant is because that was the day the Bulldogs moved from KSAC and District 9 also ran to contender when Redbank Valley upset then undefeated North Clarion 86-78.

"That game turned the corner for us," Marshall said. "That gave this team the confidence it was lacking. These kids looked at it, ‘If we can beat North Clarion, we can beat anybody.'"

Marshall continued, "For this team to be successful, they have to have the same mentality they had going into that North Clarion game. They have to know that they can win and can't be beaten. They have to trust in the system and themselves."

The win over the Wolves propelled the Bulldogs to its first winning record and a playoff berth since 2014-15.

Marshall feels last year's successes should be beneficial to his team.

"Making the playoffs for the first time in five years could work in our favor," Marshall said. "These guys are seasoned."

The biggest reason for the Bulldogs' resurgence last season was just a matter of a familiarity of Marshall's system.

"I coached a lot of these guys in junior high and they learned my system and then they moved up to the varsity level and it was just a steady evolution," Marshall said. "When I took this job, I said it was a five year plan. I knew that after the third year, we were going to turn the corner and win a lot of ballgames. "I am almost positive we are going to win a lot of ballgames this year as well. Everyone is confident with what the offensive scheme is. Everyone is comfortable with the defensive scheme and we have a little bit more skill this year."

Marshall continued, "We want to maybe take the next step and possibly get into a championship game."

According to Marshall, the most important factor in the Bulldogs' success was the play of point guard Bryson Bain and forward Chris Marshall who both started as freshmen last year.

Marshall feels the knowledge both players had of the system was the key to their success.

"I have been coaching Bryson and Chris since they were in the fourth grade," Marshall said. "They have been running our program since fourth grade and that helped everybody get in synch. Those two guys came in ready to play as freshmen at the varsity level."

Chris Marshall will move from forward to shooting guard this season.

Senior Declan Fricko and junior Owen Magagnotti are slated to be the Bulldogs' starting forwards in 2019-20 while senior Anthony Baileys is slated to be Redbank Valley's starting center.

Someone who could play a key role in the Redbank Valley fortunes could be senior Ethan Hetrick. Hetrick, a 6-foot-6 forward, didn't play for the Bulldogs last year but is back in the fold this year. Hetrick will likely miss the beginning of the season as he is recovering from an injury he suffered during the Redbank Valley football season.

"We have to get him acclimated to basketball after he missed last year," Marshall said. "But as a sophomore, he averaged nine points and nine rebounds for us. His reach is out of this world so that brings a whole different dimension to our game."

Also scheduled to come off the bench for the Bulldogs is juniors Landon Pence, Ty Sherry and Koltin Kline.

"We will probably play eight or nine guys this year because we want to keep everybody fresh," Marshall said. "We want to trap on defense more than was did last year."

Redbank Valley will open its season Friday (Dec. 6) as host of the Redbank Valley Tip-Off tournament.