Birds to build solid defense

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

The Voorheesville basketball team is getting ready for what should be another challenging Colonial Council season; the Birds have moved up to Class B from Class C. Here, Joe Vogel grips the basketball during practice on Nov 26.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Giving direction during Voorheesville basketball practice on Nov. 26 is Head Coach David Burch, who took the job last year. The Blackbirds have eight returning players, and seven of them are seniors.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Eclipse: Senior Dylan Hensel takes a shot during a Nov. 26 Voorheesville basketball practice. Hensel is one of seven returning seniors for the Birds, which open the season at home against Cobleskill on Friday.

VOORHEESVILLE — Last year was a reinvention for the Voorheesville basketball team, but this season comes with greater expectations.

Head Coach David Burch, new to the Blackbirds in 2012, with a full season of coaching behind him, now has eight returning players who will each make important contributions to the team. At practice on Nov. 26, Voorheesville was working exclusively on defense, something that has become a focal point for 2013-14.

“We could score how we wanted to, but defense was our downfall,” senior Logan Hotaling said of last season. “It must get better.”

Burch told The Enterprise that the Birds gave up more than 55 points per game in 2012-13. “That’s a big concern for us,” he said. “Our talent is in the offense, and we can fall back on that, but our defense is what we have to count on every single night. It needs to be solid.”

Having a lead in the fourth quarter at Canajoharie in the Class C playoffs last season, Voorheesville couldn’t find a way to stop Canajoharie down the stretch. The Blackbirds ended up losing by 11 points.

“You’re only as good as your last performance, so that’s what we have in the back of our minds,” said senior Dylan Hensel on Nov. 26. “We have a lot of potential that should give us an extra push forward.”

Burch says that his players have seriously bought into his ideas, and that all the players are pushing each other hard in practice. On Nov. 26, adrenaline was running fairly high as the Blackbirds’ players hustled all over the court.

“It’s loud, and they get frustrated sometimes,” said Burch. “They care a lot, so, hopefully, all this hard work and effort translates to the games.”

With all these familiar hoopsters on the court — seniors Hotaling, Hensel, Noah Crawford, Joe Vogel, Michael Hennessy, Slater Nolan, Jack Wakeley, and junior Isaiah Meaux — Burch can better understand his players’ tendencies. In turn, the players can better comprehend Burch’s terminology.

“It’s easier to pick up where you left off,” Hotaling said. “We’re not reinventing anything this time.”

The team is folding in some new talent, though: Shane Parry, Scott Roney, Robert Denman, Alex Minnick, and George Bernhard.

Burch’s growth as a coach will definitely help Voorheesville, Hensel said, adding, “But it depends on how we start the season.”

Hensel says that Voorheesville’s chemistry is already great; the team participated in plenty of camps and workouts over the off-season. Burch stressed the effort that his players put into basketball.

“The enthusiasm and will to play is there,” said Burch. “Working hard is our strength; it’s very positive.”

“Everyone says that they like their teammates, but we really do,” Hotaling added. “We’re friends on and off the court, and there is no animosity between anyone for any reason. Everyone pulls for each other, and we play well together.”

Judging by the speed of practice on Nov. 26, the Blackbirds seem loose and eager to open the season. Voorheesville hosts Cobleskill on Friday at 7 p.m.

“To be honest, I don’t see massive moves in the line-up,” Burch said. “A lot of guys should get minutes, so that makes my job pretty tough.”

If Voorheesville can meet its defensive goals, then Burch sees the team going far.

Hensel and Hotaling agreed on expectations for a Colonial Council championship, and maybe even a sectional title. The Blackbirds have moved up to Class B from Class C, but that could work in the team’s favor come playoff time; the Birds play Class B and A teams in its league.

“We don’t want to be disappointed and we don’t want to lose,” said Hotaling. “We have a hardworking team, but we play a lot of other hardworking teams. Still, we’re confident in our ability to do well.”

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