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Northern Tier Sports Report
It’s the dawning of a new era for the Black Knights.

Coach Ryan Napp is back, along with his assistants, and they’ve dug in to help Towanda turn things around.

“We’re not trying to change everything, because we don’t have enough time to do it,” he explained. “But we’re trying to get what they’re good at, really good at. Then, in the off season, make them more complete players.”

That’s the theme this year - have players focus on what they do well and, by extension, find roles for them.

“It really comes down to fundamentals,” said Napp. “We don’t have a quantity of shooters, we don’t have a quantity of ball handlers, so what we have to do is, the people who can shoot take shots, the people who can handle the ball, to handle the ball, the people who can post up, post up and make their lay-ups. I think that’s what Coach Innocenzo and Coach Mattocks and I are looking at is, we have our offensive sets that we’ve always had, but now how do we make that work for our individual players.”

It’s been a rough last four years for the Knights as they haven’t won more than four games in a season, though, they’ve showed some promise.

They went 3-21 a year ago but seven of their losses were by 10 points or less, including two close battles with rival Wyalusing.

What they lacked in offensive power they made up for in scrappy play and defensive acumen. This year, they’re hoping that they can score a few more points to turn those close losses into wins.

“It’s a new team, a new coach, a new year,” said Kolby Hoffman, who averaged just under 10 points per game a year ago. “So I’m excited.”

Hoffman is one of those post players Napp talked about. He’s been working on his footwork during the off season as his goal is to make the NTL All-star team.

However, he hasn’t lost sight of the main goal.

“We just want to win,” said Hoffman.

Mason Hartmann is another key player whose hoping to turn things around.

“I’m glad we get to have a season with all that’s going on,” he said. “I’m appreciative that we get to play basketball. We have a good coach, it’s going to be a fun year.”

So far the sophomore has enjoyed his new head coach.

“It’s different but we’re adapting,” he said. “But we’re all just excited to have a new opportunities. He’s a great coach, I love it.”

While they’re working on their offense, they haven’t forgotten about defense, either.

“We’re definitely working on our teamwork,” said Hartmann. “All these years we’ve been focusing on defense, and defense, and defense, and we just have to keep focusing on that - that’s the key to win games.”

One player they’re going to look towards for more offense is Dante Ottaviani. 

“I think I can help with that,” said Ottaviani. “I’ve been doing pretty good this year shooting wise, though I could get better.”

Being a swingman Ottaviani is also working on his ball handling, something they’ve been doing team wide.

“We’re doing a lot more ball handling because last year we had a lot more turnovers,” he explained. “And, I think turnovers was the main reason, last year, we didn’t do so good.”

The league is improving, too, and this year looks to be one of the most competitive in recent history.

“When you look at a schedule it’s like ‘that’s not an easy game, that’s not an easy game, and that’s not an easy game,” explained Napp. “You can’t look at it that way, you just have to take it one game at a time and try to get a win.”

The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed coaching along with playing this year. Napp expects quite a bit less scouting and more internal focus this season.

“Before, it’s we have to get our team ready but we also have to know what everybody else is doing,” he said. “Now, just our focus has been, ‘let’s take care of us.’ Every game is going to be tough and if we can get good at what we’re good at (on offense), and we get good at defense no matter who we’re playing. If we can get good at those and get a win, we can get some confidence, and winning builds confidence.”

The players have changes, too, as they will have to wear masks on the court, among other guidelines.

“It’s going to be hard wearing masks, and it’s going to be tough to keep distance on the court,” said Hoffman. “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but we’ll see.”

Regardless, the players have a positive outlook as we dig into 2021.

“I think this year can definitely be different,” said Ottaviani. “We have a good team this year.”

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