SPRINGVILLE — At quarter after 6 a.m on a dark Tuesday morning, four cars sat in the Springville-Griffith Institute parking lot on North Buffalo Street. While others may have been hitting the snooze button or getting ready for the day, S-GI boys varsity assistant coach Jake Domes and four of his players were in the gym, for a voluntary practice.
That Tuesday, Domes tossed some cards on the gym floor, each with different workouts written on them. Domes had been introduced to a similar deck of cards during his time in the United States Army, and brought them to his team. Junior forward Pat Emmick picked first: sit-ups. Sophomore guard Kyle Warner was next. “One Suicide,” the card read.
Domes joined his players in the exercises, as they continued to pick cards.
“They picked all the easy ones,” the coach joked.
Springville hasn’t won a division title in nearly 30 years, including finishing last season with a 2-17 record.
“I’m sick of losing,” senior Adam Wolfley said. “We need to change the culture here.”
That drive toward change brings members of Domes’ team to the gym, nearly an hour and a half before school is in session. That may combine with seven returning players, to help Springville get over the hump and turn around a program, according to Wolfley. At least, he hopes so.
Wolfley will team up with senior Nate Wolcott as Springville’s primary ball-handlers. Both players will see time at point guard, as well as the ‘two’ position.
Leading the group of returnees offensively is senior Greg Beatty. Beatty was second on the team in scoring and 3-pointers made, last season, behind the graduated Billy Dickinson.
“Greg is certainly one of our weapons to score the ball,” said Springville head coach Frank Noeson. “He is an excellent 3-point shooter. When teams play us in zone, he’s able to really stretch the zone and opens up things for other guys, as well. This year, Greg is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in, so we’re looking forward to him putting the ball on the floor a little more often, as well. He rebounds the ball very aggressively and can be a match-up problem when on the floor, as a forward.”
Bobby Fisher, a senior, is returning for his third season of varsity ball. Fisher was Springville’s third-leading scorer last season, first among forwards, and provides defense, as well as rebounding. Ethan Benz is a four-year varsity contributor, at forward. Senior Kevin Zabawa and junior Emmick, both 6-foot, 5-inch forwards, will bring size to the Griffs’ front court.
Sophomore Warner was called up to varsity, after leading the junior varsity in scoring, as a freshman. Warner averaged nearly 14 points per game, playing both the one and two positions, and will play those positions at the varsity level, as well. Junior guards Kyle Crotty and Devin Pazzuti will play in the backcourt, as well as senior newcomer Seneca DePerro. Noeson said that he feels comfortable with a seven or eight player rotation, this season.
“We do have a little bit of depth, this year,” he said. “It will be nice to try and utilize seven or eight [players] to the best of our ability. We just need to make sure that we stay out of foul trouble, so we can use seven or eight [guys] how we need them, not out of necessity.”
A majority of the team’s seniors saw significant playing last season and some found themselves in the starting lineup often, noted Noeson. Springville lost three games last season, in overtime, and dropped numerous nail-biters, in regulation. Noeson added that he hopes the team’s experience will help them find themselves in the win column, in those tight games.
“We’re excited to be returning so many seniors that have playing experience,” the coach said. “I think we’re going to be very competitive and scrappy, similar to last year. Hopefully, that experience can help those close games end up in our favor. I don’t think this year that we’ll be the biggest or fastest team on the court, but we’ll work hard, play hard and surprise other teams.”
Noeson said he expects defense to play an integral role, this season. Springville will look to play more man-to-man defense and use full-court pressure. The Griffs sport one of the smallest courts in Western New York, making it more difficult for opponents to break that full-court pressure. Noeson also stressed that his team will be playing a full 32 minutes, not just small runs.
“I don’t think any one player has really placed themselves ahead of the pack,” he added. “With all of the returning guys, they’re all doing great things. They push each other to improve, each time, down the floor, in practice. They’re a bunch of really hardworking guys. It’s a lot of fun to work with such a close-knit group that wants to get better.”
The attempt at cultural change began on Dec. 6, as Springville traveled to Eden for a nonleague matchup.