Phil Anastasia: Defense lifts Lenape over Shawnee

Shawnee's Frank Destito blocks a layup attempt by Lenape's Sawyer Hand, who had two points but was a defensive force.
Shawnee's Frank Destito blocks a layup attempt by Lenape's Sawyer Hand, who had two points but was a defensive force. (CURT HUDSON / For The Inquirer)

Junior Sawyer Hand and teammates put the clamps on the Renegades to triumph, 47-31.

Posted: January 20, 2012

In a typical two-hour basketball practice, Lenape spends a good 25 minutes on offense.

OK, maybe 20 minutes.

Lenape senior Avery Brown thinks his team devotes 80 percent of its practice time to defense. Junior Sawyer Hand thinks that's a low estimate.

"That's our whole game," Hand said.

Hand, a scrappy, 5-foot-9 guard, ended the week with 10 points and seven stitches. At Lenape, that's almost a double-double.

"I just congratulated him on the week he had," Lenape coach Chuck Guittar said of Hand, who scored two points but still was a major factor in the Indians' 47-31 victory over Shawnee on Thursday night in a battle of school-district rivals and Top 10 teams.

You don't have to score to get playing time for Lenape. You do need to play defense.

Hand scored three against Paul VI, five against Cherokee, and two against Shawnee. But he was a big reason why the Indians, the No. 7 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, went 3-0 in those games.

Not that Hand was alone. He might have been charged with the task of guarding Paul VI's Ron Curry, Cherokee's Conor Kelly, and Shawnee's Dan Mumford, each of whom leads his team in scoring average.

But Hand had plenty of help from his friends in limiting those three explosive guards to a combined 15 points.

"Sawyer buys into what we're doing," Guittar said. "He also trusts his teammates."

The Indians (11-2) have not allowed more than 57 points in a game, and they have held nine of 13 opponents to fewer than 50.

But they've tightened down in the last three games. Their big week included a 53-45 victory over then-No. 1 Paul VI, a 48-40 victory over Cherokee, and Thursday night's defensive clinic against No. 10 Shawnee.

"It shows we're getting better," Guittar said.

Shawnee (10-4) played solid defense, too. For the longest time, this looked like first team to 40 wins.

"Their defense is always good," Shawnee coach Joe Kessler said. "We played pretty good defense, too, but the game got away from us a little in the fourth quarter."

Lenape finally shook loose at the offensive end in the fourth quarter, as Brown scored five of his 14, senior forward Evan Ward scored five of his 11, and senior guard Kyle Robostello scored five of his 10.

But the 32-minute constant for the Indians was their defensive intensity. They pressured every Shawnee pass, contested every shot, snared every defensive rebound.

The Renegades, who had won three in a row while scoring an average of 72.6 points, shot just 11 for 42 from the field and took just 10 free throws.

"They're such a good shooting team," Guittar said of Shawnee. "We really wanted to make them work. In the second half, it seemed like their legs were gone. I thought we played terrific."

Coming into his junior year, Hand knew he needed to work on his game to get varsity minutes. He spent the summer concentrating on defense.

"Pitter-patter drills, working out, conditioning," said Hand, who played with a bandage above his left eye, courtesy of an errant elbow in the Paul VI game.

He mixed in a little ballhandling and shooting. Like a Lenape practice, probably a good 20 percent.

Shawnee 4 10 8 9 – 31

Lenape 11 8 7 21 – 47

S: Dan Mumford 2, Josh Borelli 10, Ryan Bodnar 3, Frank Destito 3, Tristan Polnitz 2, Danny DiVirgilio 5, Alec Warren 3, Sean Thompson 3.

L: Kyle Robostello 10, Evan Ward 11, Sawyer Hand 2, Avery Brown 14, Tabu Gaither 6, Kendall Green 4.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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