Prep boys basketball: Fenwick plans to battle in balanced GCLC North

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Prep boys basketball: Fenwick plans to battle in balanced GCLC North

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Fenwick forward C.J. Napier (22) drives the lane during a game against visiting Monroe on Jan. 17, 2017. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Pat Kreke is closing in on the start of his 29th season as Fenwick High School’s boys basketball coach, and he’s anticipating another tight battle in the Greater Catholic League Coed North Division.

“The league is going to be very balanced,” said the veteran coach, whose team finished 4-6 and third in the division and 13-11 overall after a one-point loss to Ponitz in the second round of the Division II sectional last season. “I don’t know if you can look at any of the top four teams and see much difference in any of the programs. I think it’s going to be very tight at the top. Nobody stands out. When you play home-and-away, there are going to be some battles.”

The Falcons welcome back their top two scorers from last season, 6-foot-4 junior forward C.J. Napier and 6-foot senior guard John Engelmeier. Napier averaged 12.0 points per game and led the entire GCLC with an average of 9.5 rebounds per game. Engelmeier averaged 9.5 points per game.

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They led a team that put together an unusual 2016-2017 season. Of their 11 losses, just two were by double digits, including one to a Florida team in Florida, and nine were by six or fewer points — essentially, two-possession games. Their first seven and eight of their first nine wins were by double digits, but four of their last six victories were by five or fewer points. They never won or lost more than three consecutive games.

Also back from that team is 5-11 senior guard David Luers, who averaged 8.5 points per game. Luers and Engelmeier lead a six-member class of seniors on the Fenwick roster, followed by the class of six juniors. The roster also includes one freshman — A.J. Braun, the tallest Falcon at 6-6.

Kreke was satisfied with their development through a pre-eason practice schedule that started on Nov. 3 and included scrimmages with Mason, Milford, Northwest and Carlisle.

“They’re going OK,” he reported. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, but we’re happy with their progress. They’re shooting the ball well. The defense is doing a pretty good job, but we’ve got to work a little bit on running the offense, and we’ve got to work on chemistry. They’re playing a little better than we thought they would.

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“We’ve got a good mix of classes. I don’t think any of them have shown an unexpected amount of improvement over last season. They’re all right about where we thought they’d be.”

Kreke’s primary concern was getting his players on the same page team-wise.

“I think that we are playing selfish,” he said. “We have to really concentrate on coming together as a team. Everybody’s out there trying to show off their individual skills and they’re not working toward a team concept.”

Changing that mind-set will ultimately be up to the players themselves, Kreke said. He’s been around long enough to know that coaches can do only so much.

“We have to count on some senior leadership,” he said. “They’re not hearing it from the coaches. If they don’t hear if from their peers, they’re not going to change. The seniors and captains have to make a lot of effort.”

GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS

Fenwick is scheduled to open the season with a pair of games against Southwest Ohio Conference teams — at Talawanda on Dec. 1 and at home against Edgewood on Dec. 5 — before opening the GCLC schedule at Roger Bacon on Dec. 8.

The Falcons’ first North Division game isn’t until Dec. 22 at Carroll, the last game before a holiday break that has them off until playing at Chaminade Julienne on Jan. 5.

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