By MEL PERKINS
The 2015-16 Northgate Flames' boys' basketball season got rolling on Dec. 4 when they took on the Springdale Dynamos in the Springdale Tip-Off Tournament. The Flames lost to Springdale and Yough in the tournament, but section play starts tonight when they travel to Moon Township to take on the Chargers from Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH).
After qualifying for the playoffs four straight seasons, the Flames, under head coach Perry Harrop, failed to make it to post-season play after finishing 3 - 14 last season. Harrop is in his seventh season leading the Flames, and will be charged with the task of guiding a young team through the rigors of a challenging section schedule.
Speaking about the lack of experience this year, Harrop said, "We're really young this year, inexperienced, we only have one letterman back, Stephon Adams. We are trying to get our sophomores and some freshman up to speed."
Adams (5'11", junior) returns as a starter this season after gaining some valuable experience last year. Adams was the starting quarterback on the football team, and will lead the basketball team from the point guard position. Adams is a very vocal leader. He can handle the ball, he's fast to the basket, and he is relentless on defense.
Elijah Thomas (6'1",junior) and Drew Joyce (5'11", junior) are also returning from last year's team, and will be leaned upon heavily due to their experience, though limited.
Joyce will play the shooting guard position and his shot from behind the arc will keep opposing defenses honest. Harrop said, "He's probably the best shooter we have on the outside. He's a returner at the guard position, so, he provides some experience."
Thomas will hold down the fort inside the paint. At 6'1", he will face players that have a height advantage, but looks can be deceiving, as Thomas plays very big for his size. He can bang with the big guys, and his vertical range is very high. Thomas is projected to lead the team in rebounding because he has a natural sense for the ball and always seems to be where the ball is.
"Elijah Thomas, is really athletic and he's a really good rebounder inside. He is really going to help us out," Harrop said.
Also getting the start this year will be Tyler Mangone (6'1", freshman). In a rare occurrence, Harrop will start a freshman this year. Harrop said, "He's been pushing to start this year. He's about 6'1", and he's a really strong kid and really works hard. He's been a part of our program all summer, so he is really up to speed." Mangone also can battle inside with the big guys, but is not limited inside, as he can handle the ball and hit the mid-range jumpers.
Rounding out the Flames' rotation, Northgate will rely on several players to carry the team down the stretch. Based on game situations, these players will be required to provide the team with the necessary boost off the bench and could be needed to start on any given night.
Gerald Harrison (6'0", sophomore) is really athletic, rebounds well and is strong on the defensive side of the ball. Also, Tre Turner (6'2", sophomore) has shown a lot of promise, and is coming into his own inside the paint. Paul Morris (6'1", sophomore) is playing basketball for the first time this year and is coming over from the football team. He's going to provide a strong inside presence.
Given the team's youth and inexperience, Harrop said, "We're looking to learn, and by the second half of our conference schedule we should have some valuable experience."
Key match-ups this year include Aliquippa, Quaker Valley, OLSH and Avonworth.