By Chris Metcalf
AVON – These Avon boys have a little unfinished business to attend to.
After falling just short in their quest for the Section V Class C1 title a year ago, head coach Rob Fries and the Braves boys basketball team are hungrier than ever.
Avon fell to Northstar Christian Academy 60-52 in the title game to finish their season 18-5.
Fries enters his 17th year coaching and has guided the Braves to four Section V titles and one NYS Championship (2009).
This year’s squad, although a bit undersized, will be as talented as any small school program in Western NY, including possibly three of the top skilled players in the area with juniors Josh Harter and Trevor Stroud, and senior Andrew Rowland.
Harter and Stroud will be two of the top ballhandlers/guards in the LCAA this season as they combined for 27 points and eight assists a year ago.
The unselfish Harter averaged a team-best 14 points with five dimes while Stroud was just as impressive averaging 13 points and three assists per game.
If those two stay healthy, this Avon squad will be very dangerous.
Rowland also returns after deciding to sit out the football season as he averaged 10 points and seven caroms per game. Rowland will be playing his fifth varsity season for Fries.
Other key returners include senior Austin Lattuca (G); juniors Travis Hollada (F) and Ryan Hillman (F) and sophomore Kal Dolgos (G).
Top newcomers include juniors Brody McDowell (F), Jordan Murray (F), and Connor Smith (F).
“I think we return three of the best guards in the county in Michael Rowland, Trevor Stroud, and Josh Harter, and any one of them can carry us offensively on any given night,” coach Fries said. “All three of them have played multiple years of varsity and want the ball in big spots. The chemistry between those three will be key to our success.”
Fries is definitely set at the guard position but it’s the post-game that is a bit concerning early on.
“The biggest area of concern for us is our size and being able to rebound with teams, and defend the post,” Fries said. “I think the next two spots in the starting lineup are up for grabs and should be a great competition throughout the year because I think any of the other guys could seize those spots. Kal Dolgos may be the best athlete in the group and should benefit from having a full year on varsity last year. Austin Lattuca brings quickness and the ability to get others involved as a senior, while Ryan Hillman and Brody McDowell are long lanky defenders that offer us a lot defensively. Travis Hollada offers the most size down low and has really improved over the past year while Connor Smith and Jordan Murray both are low post options with differing skill sets. No matter who ends up in the starting lineup we will have options for depth. We will be tested often as we have the most difficult schedule I think I have had as a coach.”
During Wednesday’s scrimmage against a very tall Wayne squad, Avon definitely held their own on the boards, which is a good sign.
Fries has set up a grueling schedule this season, including his own division.
“Having York move into Division II with LeRoy, Geneseo, and Warsaw makes a really fun fight every night for a league title,” Fries said. “Our non-league games include RAC, Geneva, Wheatland-Chili, Hornell and we added Lyons this year to a really good schedule from last year. We are going to take some lumps but hopefully, by the end, it makes us better. I think it is going to be a really fun year because this group works really hard and seems very close with each other.”
Doug McFarland Photography