Full Court: An in-depth look at Cedar Park basketball

Zach DiSchiano

After making the playoffs for two straight years, the Cedar Park boy’s basketball team has proven that the program is on the rise and is now becoming a distinctive team in the district. This year, the standards remain high as the boys will try to repeat the same style of play and make the playoffs again. The team is very different this year, with only one returning varsity player, Tyler Stromberg. However, the focus remains the same and the intensity hasn’t simmered down. All the players on the team are convinced they are a step up from last year’s varsity.

“We have just as much talent, if not more,” Matt Thurner, senior guard, said. “People think last year’s varsity was the best, but I think we’re better.”

The T-Wolves have shown their strengths through the first series of games they’ve played. The team’s defense has been strong so far, forcing turnovers and running fast-breaks, resulting in easy lay-ups. The T-Wolves have also cooperative; ball movement is a vital element in the team’s success. Scoring 59.5 points per game so far, the T-Wolves have proven to their opponents the ability of all their players.

“Several people can shoot the ball well,” Thurner said.  “Teams have trouble stopping our three point shots, and we do well at the free throw line.”

Unity is also important for the team, and the Timberwolves have a great chemistry. The T-Wolves have been playing together all through high school and have been friends in many obstacles. This becomes a necessity down the stretch because when players don’t get along, it shows on the scoreboard. Cedar Park’s strong bond will play a role in the clutch, all the players trust each other and it shows through their play.

“We have the best team chemistry in Cedar Park history,” Matt Gallagher, junior forward said. “We hang out a lot and we’re all really tight.”

Size is another advantage for the Timberwolves this year, with the average player measuring 6’2”. The T-Wolves are now a stronger, more physical team than last year and the amount of determination is remarkable. The size and strength helps a great deal on the boards, and rebounding is always crucial for a successful team.

Every year the team has a motto that represents something they are trying to accomplish or live by. This year, “One More” is printed on the shirts of the players. This year’s saying  means “making one more drive, one more pass, one more steal, one more three-point play… one more step to the high goals this team sets!” according to the team’s web site. This strategy demands focus and heart, and the players are ready to embrace the challenge of going the extra step.

Many schools are without a strong home court advantage, but that’s not the case with the T-Wolves. Students from every grade level come out and support Cedar Park and the S.R.O. Zone intimidates opponents by yelling and making noise. The S.R.O. Zone, or Standing Room Only Zone, focuses on being very loud and rattling teams who play Cedar Park. The packed stands help the T-Wolves build off the noise and produce defensive plays and fast-breaks.

“We have great fans,” Kollin Steichen, junior forward, said. “The S.R.O. zone is supportive, but I still think we could have some more people.”

The team itself also has some improvements to make, according to most of the players. To get to the playoffs again, the T-Wolves are trying to fix a few things.

“We need to execute our plays better,” Demarcus Rosenthal, senior guard, said. “We have good plays but we don’t run them well enough during the game.”

Most teams press, or make a defense, at some point during the game, and breaking the press can sometimes determine the difference between a good and bad team. A full court-press can cause the other team to panic and turn the ball over. If consecutive turnovers are forced from a press, momentum quickly builds up and the only way to calm down players is to waste a time out. On many occasions the T-Wolves are caught up in a high-tempo game, in which both teams are continuously scoring back and forth. Turnovers are a higher risk when teams are swapping back and forth, so teams want to slow down the game and run through a few plays.

The T-Wolves believe they can still improve on getting the ball passed half court and breaking the press.

“We bust like pipes under pressure,” Zach Corbin, senior forward, said. “We need to work on handling the ball in pressure situations.”

Pressure is something the T-Wolves will have to face all season, especially against teams like Leander and McNeil. The Lions’ star point guard, Joel Smith, has everyone in the district biting their nails.

“Smith is just an all-around good player,” Corbin said, “He has a great three point shot and has good driving skills. He has great size for a point guard at 6’2” also.”

Defeating Leander will be a tough challenge for the T-Wolves, but the team feels confident that they will beat their long-time rivals. McNeil also poses a threat to Cedar Park; the Mavericks have always been a dominant program, producing players like Longhorn’s guard A.J. Abrams. Cedar Park has a lot of work cut out for them, but they feel they have the knowledge and talent to win district and advance into the state playoffs.

The T-Wolves are determined to win district this year and everyone on the team believes they can and will do it. Cedar Park has many strong areas that opposing teams are concerned about, and the home court advantage always provides a certain surge of energy and motivation for the T-Wolves and although there are some things that still need improvement, the strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses. If the trust between players remains strong and the team continues making improvements, it’s likely they will be successful and surprise the other teams in the district. The talent is there, the determination is there, the heart is there, and the fans are most definitely there. The T-Wolves hope that if they do make that one more drive, one more pass, one more steal, and one more three-point play, they will accomplish the high goals they have set.