THE PHILOSOPHY is really simple when it comes to the way Lenape High boys' basketball coach Chuck Guittar composes a yearly schedule.
"The goal is to play the best competition available," Guittar said. "We're used to it at Lenape. If you look at it, we schedule tough out-of-conference games, but it's also being a member of Group 4 and the fact that, night in and night out, the Olympic Conference is so tough.
"I prefer good competition, because it makes you better at the end of the season. Sure, we're worn down sometimes, but the benefit is we are a better team."
Guittar and the Indians (4-0) will take their perfect record into a game against Malvern Prep this afternoon that is symbolic of Guittar's approach. Not only is Malvern Prep good - a 45-27 win Tuesday against defending Group 3 champion Kingsway is a clear indication of its talent - but the Prep already has played 11 games, amassing a 9-2 record.
"We'll be playing our fifth game," Guittar said. "But that doesn't matter. The fact is this is a very good challenge for us."
Prep will be led by Brendan Kilpatrick, who scored 17 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the win over Kingsway. That said, Lenape must focus on its game before worrying about what Malvern Prep brings to the floor.
"The good thing about us is we've had someone else take charge every night," Guittar said. "I know [Brad Robertson] had a good night [17 points] against Moorestown the other night. Before that, it was Jeff Dinich [with 17 against Camden Catholic].
"We have to stay balanced, and, if we can, we'll only get better."
Cinnaminson coach Mike Fries struggled to find the right words.
It's a loaded question when you are asked whether you expected your team to start off the season 5-0. It's one thing to be confident and another to be cocky, and Fries wanted to show he was confident.
"I knew coming in that we had a chance to be pretty good," Fries said. "We opened with a very good Collingswood team, followed by Riverside and then Rancocas Valley, all within 4 days. Did I think we could be 5-0? Yeah. But I knew we would have to work very hard to do it."
Yesterday, Cinnaminson beat Moorestown Friends, 64-55, to finish out 2010 at 5-0 and with plenty of momentum heading into 2011. The Pirates have been led by seniors Napoleon Blamon, who is averaging a little more than 25 points per game, and Max DiLeo, but Fries has been happy with his entire team through the first 2 weeks of the season.
"We're still pretty young," Fries said. "We start two sophomores and a freshman, so the job Nap and Max have done is really special.
"We have lofty goals this year, but that's the same with everybody. We're off to a good start, and we have plenty of tough games ahead, so our next objective is the top seed in the tournament. We have a month before the cutoff, and that's what our focus is for now."
Despite a loss to Cinnaminson, Moorestown Friends has gotten off to a fast start that coach Ryan Winkelspecht wasn't sure he could expect.
"We lost our top three scorers from a year, so what we had coming back offensively was a bit of a mystery," Winkelspecht said. "I knew we would be more athletic and there would be things we could do differently, but it's tough to replace three scorers."
The Foxes have done just that, as they've opened the season 4-1. Granted, the Foxes have nine seniors on the roster, but that can hurt team chemistry as individuals fight for playing time. That hasn't been the case for Moorestown so far.
"It all stems from [seniors Curran Ellis and Drew Haines]," Winkelspecht said. "This team gets along very well and it has those two to thank for it.
"Ellis has really come out physical this year, and it's made a big difference. We've had a couple kids step up, as well, including Jake Brown, Mike Cunningham and especially [freshman Dan Richards]. But they've played well, because Curran and Drew have led our team like captains should." *
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