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Derry boys getting defensive early on this season

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Derry boys basketball coach Damon Rause directs during practice on December 4, 2012 in Derry Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Derry Area senior guard Andy Panizzi makes a move past freshman Brandon Lucas during practice on December 4, 2012 in Derry Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

The Derry boys basketball team will have to replace its top three scorers from last year's squad and they plan to do so with improved defense.

Jeremy Hauser (13 points per game), Zack Wisneski (11 ppg) and Tyler Dickey (9 ppg) were all lost to graduation, but head coach Damon Rause thinks he's found the solution to replace the departed contributors.

“We're going to be a defensive, get in your face team instead of a run-and-gun and shoot-the-3 team that we were last year,” said Rause, who's in his third year at the helm. “Especially early in the season, our goal is to understand what we are doing defensively and from there, we offensively want to spread teams out and get to the hoops.”

The Trojans — who finished 11-11 overall and 3-9 in Section 3-AAA in 2011-12 — will not be starting from scratch this year. Rause returns a group of upperclassmen that saw significant time on the court and expects contributions from all of them.

“I traditionally play a lot of players,” he said. “Even though we lost three starters, I have six kids coming back, with four of them that played in every game.

“I have a lot of experience coming back. We're going to rely on that experience.”

Senior Alex Mylant — a 6-5, 300-pound forward — will provide a valuable presence in the paint, and senior Nick Clayton will offer an athletic post presence and with ability to play inside and out.

“We're going to rely on those guys to help us to play more of an inside-out game,” Rause said. “We're going to try to get to them early and try to get a post move and kick it out. Last year, we wanted to get to Hauser and Dickey for an outside-in approach.”

Senior point guard Andy Panizzi will split time handling the ball with senior Lucas Maloy. Panizzi — a three-year starter at the point — is expected to fill the role voided by Hauser and become the team's top scorer. Maloy plays an aggressive defensive and offensive style and Rause said his tenacity to get to the net will prove valuable. Junior Matt Vasinko — a 6-3, 180-pound guard — will play a slash role and keep teams on their heels with his long-range jump shot.

Rause is clear to point out that Derry will not consider this a rebuilding year. He hops the experience his group gained last year will be a stepping stone for what he hopes is the school's most successful season on the basketball front.

“We want to take the next step and get to that next level,” Rause said. “We think we can be better than 11-11 and compete in the section. We definitely want to keep the team moving forward and use last year as a step ladder.”

Derry opened the season by splitting a pair of games over the weekend at the Homer-Center Tournament. The Trojans (1-1) defeated Westmont Hilltop, 40-27, but fell to host Homer-Center, 68-60.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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