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Derry boys basketball team focuses on improving offense

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Bill Pribisco | For The Dispatch
Ligonier Valley’s Alex Tutino (2) tries to slow down Derry's Matt Vasinko (32) on Dec. 28 at Ligonier Valley High School.
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By Kevin Lohman
Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

The shots just haven't been falling. Unfortunately for the Derry boys basketball team, that age-old basketball adage has become somewhat of a mantra this season.

After managing just two wins in their first eight contests, it's clear that their average of 39.4 points will not be enough for the Trojans offense.

But in spite of their slow start and sluggish offense, the team still has cause to be optimistic. Derry has eight remaining games on its Section 3-AAA schedule, a section that boasts just two teams with winning records. With a strong finish, the playoffs could still be within the Trojans' reach.

Fourth-year coach Damon Rause knows reaching the playoffs and accomplishing goals will rely on offensive improvements. An emphasis on attacking the basket could be one remedy for the Trojans' offensive woes.

“On offense we want to attack the rim,” Rause explained, “We like to spread teams out and get to the hoop. We want to make more free throws than the other team shoots.”

Drawing fouls has been an underlying factor in Derry's close games this season. They've averaged 30.5 free-throw attempts in each of their wins, compared to only 15.6 attempts in their losses.

Another potential fix for the Trojans' offense could come with an improved transition game. One of Derry's strengths this season has been its staunch man-to-man defense. In four of its eight games, the Trojans have held opponents to 45 or fewer points. However, such a physical defense leads to a slow transition to offense, which has resulted in few fast-break opportunities.

“The man-to-man defense has worked. We've held good teams to few points. We just need to pick up the pace more and get some easier baskets,” Rause said of the transition game. “When you run more of a slow-down defense, you really have to maximize your offensive possessions and get good looks.”

Fortunately for the Trojans, they have a roster that is heavy on experience and capable of making the necessary adjustments.

One player who has shined on both sides of the ball is Ryan Maloy, who has established himself as one of the more versatile big men in triple-A. The junior forward has averaged 9.6 points and also leads the team in assists and steals.

Fellow forwards T.J. Balega, Cam Gerhard and Matt Vasinko have been key cogs down low for the Trojans. Senior guards Connor Wege and Luke Ridilla have proven themselves to be sharpshooting threats.

Despite their poor start, the Trojans have the bulk of their schedule still in front of them. With some offensive adjustments, Rause and his team believe they can make some noise in this season's muddled Section 3-AAA.

“We want to have a winning record. We want to make playoffs. All of our goals are still in front of us,” Rause said.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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