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Snyder helps Seneca Valley remain in playoff hunt

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Louis Raggiunti | Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley forward Zach Snyder has 30-point and 21-point games to his credit this season.
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Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 4:29 p.m.

The Seneca Valley boys basketball team advanced to the WPIAL Quad-A final four last season. From that Raiders team, four talented forwards who either started or played a lot graduated.

Looking to begin replacing that production, Seneca Valley coach Vic Giannotta saw 6-foot-6 junior forward Zach Snyder step up and make an impact in his first season as a varsity starter.

“Zach has turned into a fine player,” Giannotta said. “He has a knack for scoring, and he scores a lot around the hoop. He is working on his 15-foot shot and mid-range shot.”

Picking up the offensive slack has not been an issue. In an important section game against defending WPIAL champion New Castle, Snyder knocked down 30 points. He followed that up with a 21-point performance against Pine-Richland.

“It basically shows that I don't have to play scared,” Snyder said. “I was able to score against the (best team) New Castle.”

The personal numbers are nice, but Snyder said it's about helping the team forge a good work ethic. The Raiders got off to a 3-4 start in Section 3, which puts them in a tie for the fourth and final playoff spot.

“We really have to keep up a good work ethic because the playoffs start now,” Snyder said, referring to Seneca Valley needing to keep pace in order to qualify. “Every team in our section is very good, so there is no off day. You have to bring your best.”

Snyder said the seniors of last year instilled a tough work ethic in practice and games. But, Snyder pointed out that with only three seniors to shoulder the load this season, he and some of the juniors are striving to step up and help set a good example.

“I am only a junior, but being a starter, I can help lead by example in practice and off the court as well,” Snyder said.

His greatest help to the team is his ability to put the ball in the basket, but Snyder said it will take a more balanced game if he really wants to help the team win more games.

“My goal is to be the best player I can be, that is my No. 1 goal,” Snyder said. “Coach Giannotta said something that can set me apart is to improve on defense.”

Snyder took his coach's advice to heart and wants to improve that aspect of his game. Playing against Division I talent on an almost nightly basis helps push Snyder in his desire to prepare.

“We have to play better on defense, that is the No. 1 thing,” Snyder said. “We have been giving up too many points. We cheat off the ball a little too much and are getting beat off the dribble. If we work on our positioning, we do run the floor well and can push the ball very fast.”

Running the floor and getting open are some aspects Snyder said he is doing well.

Getting up for the section games isn't hard, according to the junior forward, but sometimes it is a challenge to simulate the abilities of a Malik Hooker from New Castle or a Ryan Luther from Hampton.

“It is hard to replicate that, but we press and do some 10-on-5 to simulate their speed,” Snyder said.

Giannotta said the sky is the limit for Snyder.

“He is a terrific college prospect,” Giannotta said. “He is a driven kid. He comes early to practice, and he stays late, which is commendable. You wish everyone was like that.”

Snyder's best may be in front of him. He comes from a basketball family with his mom playing Division I basketball and his brother Alex being the starting center a year ago. The motivation to maintain that high level of play is always there.

“I want to have the chance to get into the playoffs and hopefully stun some teams,” Snyder said. “I think we can get on a run here and do it.”

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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