When the ’Stoga basketball season began, the Pioneers were not expected to go very far. Made up of mostly new players, the team faced a schedule loaded with the biggest and best of the Central League. The boys struggled to adjust to a fresh lineup and new style of play as they plunged into a slew of tough games right from the start. The same old story of graduation losses weaved hauntingly through the Pioneers’ early roster, which seemed to dash any hope of a successful season.
“The beginning of our season was extremely tough. Every game we played was against a team well over the .500 mark,” senior captain Austin Smith said. “Playing that tough of competition with such an inexperienced team hurt our record to start.”
With a record of 4-9 in early January, all the team could do was look past its tough beginning and hope its hard work would pay off later in the season.
But then they won a game. And then they won another. And soon enough, they had strung up a streak of seven consecutive victories, and fans began pouring into the Conestoga stands to watch the Pioneers dominate the home court. Although they suffered a tough 57-39 loss to Chester in the first round of the District 1 playoffs on Feb. 19, the season still remains a remarkable success for the Pioneers.
With an incredibly balanced and athletic roster, ’Stoga was able to utilize its speed on both ends of the court to turn around its tough season start, employing good defense and rebounding skills, as well as finding more open opportunities on offense to finish the season strong.
“We are a very athletic team and we love to run the floor,” junior guard Tanner Scott said. “We look to have an upbeat tempo and use our speed.”
With the practice and experience came the success, and as the team figured out how to take advantage of its strengths on the court, the boys hit their stride. Although the playoffs ended early for the Pioneers this year, the season was no less of a success for the newly-formed Conestoga squad.
The chemistry of this year’s team turned out to be one of the major components of its late-blooming success. The Pioneers actually benefited from losing some of last year’s seniors because they were able to rid themselves of some negative team chemistry, junior forward Harry Biemer said. Although the new players were slow to gain momentum, the effort expended toward creating an effective roster turned out to be well worth it at the end of the season.
“It just took some time for the team to get used to playing varsity basketball together,” Smith said. “[Losing seniors gave] a fresh feeling to the team and allowed us to create our own identity.”
Once ’Stoga had adjusted to the influx of new players, they were finally able to focus on winning.
“Perseverance was really the key for us,” Scott said. “We had a very slow start but we still managed to get through the bad moments and manage a winning season.”
Although their winning streak finally ended with a close loss at the hands of Lower Merion, the boys played out the rest of their season to finish with a record of 12-9 and managed to clinch a berth in the District 1 tournament.
Entering the playoffs as a 22-seed team, the Pioneers had to keep their game strong and their competition tough for their first game of the tournament. But, despite Conestoga’s best efforts, the team was unable to defeat the 11-seed Chester in the playoffs, and suffered an early exit from the tournament.
But now that the playoffs have ended for the boys and the season draws to a close, it remains quite obvious that Conestoga has most definitely defied all odds with a miraculous turnaround to finish off a great season. Win or lose, the Pioneers have shown that they have the talent to start from scratch and build a team fit to win.
“I didn’t know what to think as far as how far we were going to go in the beginning of the season,” Scott said. “But I knew what we were capable of and that we were a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”