Winning just two games last winter wasn’t easy on anyone in the Fairport basketball program.
That rough year provided the motivation for the Skippers during the offseason and they enter the 2017-2018 season with more experience and plenty of hope.
“Only earning two wins was difficult last season,” said seventh-year coach Matt Cardina. “Having said that, we are motivated to improve our defensive points per game and cut down our own turnovers. With (two key returning starters), we feel our experience at the top has our team prepared to increase our win total. We expect to win 6-10 games playing opportunistic transition offense. However, we are placing the most emphasis on defense and our ‘toolbox’ of defensive options. We will play a variety of zones as well as man-to-man, all depending on match-ups and what is working well each night.”
The Skippers aren’t big but they’ll use their speed to remain competitive.
“Our biggest strength is quickness,” Cardina said. “We are an undersized team, but we have the foot-speed to slide into great defensive positioning. We are looking to keep opponents out of the paint by emphasizing help defense outside the paint so that we force the opponent into long and contested jumpers.”
Offensively, the Skippers will again play to their strengths, which includes feeding sharpshooter Corey Paugh as much as possible.
“Our transition offense will be how we look to keep the opponent’s defense on edge,” Cardina said. “We’ll utilize quick guards and ball-movement to attack early if it’s there. Finally, Corey Paugh was one of the best 3-point shooters as a junior last year and he’s added 15 pounds of muscle. We will use him to be our dynamic scoring point guard.”
Paugh is one of two returning starters. He averaged 13.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season in being named second team All-Chagrin Valley Conference. He also connected on 62 3-pointers and shot 72-percent from the free throw line.
“Corey is one of the best shooters in the area, but we need him to be much more than that for our team to improve,” Cardina said. “He will be counted on to run the show and be a stronger leader this season.”
Senior guard/forward Mitch Yommer also returns to the starting lineup after averaging eight points, two assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He hit on 26 of his 3-point tries and was named honorable mention All-CVC.
“He is the team’s most athletic player and we need him to be a great energizer for our team,” Cardina said. “He has the ability to get to the rim quickly for easy buckets, and a reliable 3-point shot that will stretch the defense. Mitch may also be our most valuable perimeter defender because of his quickness and length.”
Senior small forward Kasey Carrabine, junior power forward/center Tobin Schafer and junior forward Jacob Severino round out the starting lineup.
Carrabine averaged 4.5 points, 1.3 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game last year while Schafer and Severino will play varsity for the first time.
“(Carrabine is) our most energetic player who gives great effort daily. If Kasey can eliminate bad turnovers and improve his closeout defense then he will be a very efficient player for us this season,” Cardina said. “Schafer is the most physical post player, especially on defense, that we’ve had in five years. We will be counting on him to anchor the defense. Severino is a defensive pest. He is physical and intense on both ends of the court.”
Junior Ray Alston and sophomores Sam Schuster and Cody Paugh also are expected to contribute for the Skippers this season.
Cardina’s recipe for success is simple.
The Skippers have to cut down on their turnovers after averaging 20 per game last year, hold opponents to one shot and frustrate 3-point shooters.
“Last season, we were able to bait some teams into taking a lot of long shots, but we were a very bad defensive rebounding team. We gave up a lot of second-chance points last season,” Cardina said. “It’s 2017, everyone can shoot now, so we cannot let a team get comfortable behind the line or we, any team really, risk allowing their opponent to break the state record for most 3s in a game.”
The Skippers host Saint John School on Friday.