Friday, December 1, 2023

Scrappy Skippers focused on defense, rebounding

Fairport Harding’s opening day roster will look quite a bit different than seventh-year head coach Matt Cardina expected it would.

The Skippers open the season with just one returning starter and two others with varsity experience after several other varsity letter winners opted to sit out the season.

“With the turnover comes an excited group of players ready to leave their mark on this season,” Cardina said. “We are younger and less experienced than expected, but those players are getting ready to step up every day as we get closer to opening night.”

A lack of varsity experience isn’t the only hurdle the Skippers will have to clear during the 2018-2019 season.

No player on the roster stands taller than 6-foot-2, leaving the team undersized in the paint.

“Without a true big-man, we must get determined to be fundamental about rebounding,” Cardina said. “A mental lapse in rebounding for one or two possessions could be the difference in a game for us. We are focusing on every man finding someone to box out. Without this, we are a poor rebounding team. If we compete for rebounding position, we will be a tough game every night.”

Rebounding well could lead to more offensive opportunities and points in transition for the guard-heavy Skippers.

“We are quick on and off the ball, “Cardina said. “Defensively, we aim to apply perimeter pressure to create loose ball situations and quick or rushed shots. We must use our quickness to be available in help-side. Offensively, we plan to use our best guards to guide our pace and frequently have the ball find the open man.”

Senior Jake Severino is the team’s lone returning starter.

The 5-foot-10 power forward averaged five points and three rebounds per game last winter.

“He’s a hard worker and grinder,” Cardina said. “He plays with passion and does a nice job playing with consistent energy. We will lean on his experience from last season.”

Senior Ray Alston and juniors Justice Bartley and Hunter Barks will fill the backcourt positions for the Skippers.

Alston is a 5-foot-9 shooting guard who averaged seven points, one assist, two rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season. He also hit 25 3-point shots.

“He is our best defensive player on the team and he keeps us locked in on that end of the floor,” Cardina said. “He found a smooth shooting stroke late in the season and we will be looking to that for floor spacing.”

Bartley is a 5-foot-11 point guard who averaged two points and 0.5 assists per game as a sophomore.

“He is the most dynamic player we have,” Cardina said. “He is our best scorer and passer. Our offense depends on his ability to break down the defense and make the best decision on the floor. He has the potential to be a special defensive player also.”

Barks is a 6-foot-1 shooting guard/small forward who will see his first varsity action this season.

“He is the best pure shooter and offensive rebounder on the team with a good offensive mind,” Cardina said. “He is very reliable and dedicated.”

Senior Tim Webster, a 6-foot-2 power forward/center, rounds out the projected starting lineup.

“Tim’s length and hustle on both ends will be needed,” Cardina said. “He is an experienced player in our program who is looking to put it all together this year.”

Cardina also expects contributions from seniors Chaz Matjya, Zack Heller and Jacob Davison and sophomores Jorden Cogswell and Nate Kopp.

Matjya and Heller both are 6-foot-2 centers and Davison is a 6-foot-1 shooting guard.

“Chaz is a strong post player who will be called on to rebound and be available for our guards as a pressure release,” Cardina said. “Heller, who is tops in the classroom, will be called on for paint protection and rebounding. Davison is one of the most dedicated players we have had in the last 10 years. He loves the game and will always be ready when called on.”

Cogswell is a 5-foot-11 point guard/shooting guard and Kopp is a 5-foot-8 shooting guard.

“Jorden is a young playmaker who is learning what it takes on the varsity floor. He has starting potential,” Cardina said. “Kopp will bring shooting and defensive pressure off the bench. He’s a young player who we believe can grow into bigger roles this season and in the future.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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