NHS falls to Whitehall
Northampton head boys' basketball coach Coy Stampone plans to take a month away from basketball before he coaches one of the squads in the VIA Classic at the end of March.
He believes his team has earned some time away from the hardwood, but the Kids will soon begin their spring workouts that will lead them back to their summer program, one that bore much fruit during this past season.
The Konkrete Kids' season ended in an opening-round PIAA District 11 Class 4A game against Whitehall, a team the Kids beat twice during the regular season. But this time around, the Zephyrs won an unconventional 29-21 battle.
Northampton ended its season with an overall 13-10 record, a huge improvement from the previous two seasons that produced a total of five wins. The Kids made districts for the first time since 2010 and barely missed making the league playoffs.
The Whitehall loss, however, was a bitter one, but it easily is a springboard for things to come.
"It was ridiculous," said Stampone, who finished his third year at the helm. "We shot the ball poorly, and we just couldn't get the ball in the hole. They (Whitehall) played a box-and-two on (Garrett) Oplinger and (Aidan) Elwood, but we went over every possible situation.
"We had some kids who were battling sickness, but we don't want to make excuses. If someone told me that we would hold Whitehall to 29 points, I would believe we could win the game. We played unbelievably defensively. We just couldn't score."
Yet, Stampone is pleased with his team's turnaround. He credits the leadership of seniors Oplinger, Basem Azar, and A.Q. McNeil
"We easily could have had 16 wins," he said. "We lost three games by three points or less and we had leads in all of them. But we had a great chemistry and we spent a lot of time together. We went to teams camps and were busy with summer leagues and tournaments.
"Our seniors really helped bring this team together. We had a number of younger guys who grew up quickly thanks to them. You could see the chemistry between them. As time went on, our confidence as a team grew."
Stampone dismissed the idea of his team burning out down the stretch. The Kids had a seven-game winning streak during which they clinched a district berth, but they lost six of their final eight games. During the final stretch, the Kids still were looking to get a league playoff spot, while their opponents were in similar situations.
"Over our last two weeks, every game was like a playoff game," stressed Stampone. "Our kids played well and they were positive. We played in possibly the toughest division in the league and all the teams made the playoffs.
"I thought about that angle (burnout), but we kept fighting for a playoff spot. We were just involved with some tight, intense games."
With the majority of his squad coming back and an influx of new talent on the horizon, Stampone likes the Kids' future.
"Our younger guys weren't freshmen and sophomores during the season," he said. "They really developed and now we have to keep it going. We'll look to get back to work soon."