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Backcourt duo power Red Devils

Bersch and White are out to build on their success.

Mike Bersch is the shooter.

Kendall White is the stopper.

Bersch's specialty is dialing from distance.

White's specialty is in-your-face defense.

Bersch is Mr. Offense.

White is Mr. Defense.

Those are neat categories, but they also are oversimplications of Rancocas Valley's accomplished backcourt combination.

Now seniors, Bersch and White are set to build on their stunning success of last season - and to expand their games beyond the narrow boundaries of their reputations.

"I think we've both improved a lot since last year," Bersch said. "Kendall can score, and I know I've worked to be able to do a lot more than just shoot."

Bersch and White are one of several top combinations in the Burlington County League this season.

Cinnaminson, the defending Patriot Division champion, will feature forwards Mark Tumas and Mike Gallo. Palmyra, the defending Freedom Division champion, will follow the lead of Quron Pratt and Warren Oliver.

New Egypt has a twin-towers combination in 6-foot-8 senior Kevin Janowski and 6-9 sophomore Desmond Hubert. And powerful Trenton Catholic, while strong at every position - and along with every spot on the bench - will draw much of its energy from the junior backcourt tandem of Dondre Whitmore and Frantz Massenet.

But when it comes to dynamic duos, it's tough to imagine a more powerful one that Bersch and White.

"I don't think any team around will have two players on the floor together better than those two," Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan said.

Last season was something special for Rancocas Valley, and Bersch and White were smack dab in the middle of the Red Devils' remarkable run to the Group 4 state championship.

The 6-6 Bersch probably played the signature game of his career in the Central Jersey finals against Trenton. He went 10 for 12 from three-point range.

"That was crazy," said Bersch, who has committed to attend American University on a basketball scholarship. "I hit 10 in a row in practice before, but never in a game."

Flanagan said Bersch, who scored 20 in the victory over Piscataway in the state finals, was a "different player" after his performance against Trenton.

White was solid all the way through the tournament, but took his play to another level the deeper the Red Devils advanced in March. He was a shut-down defender in the sectional finals, the state semifinals, and the state finals.

"He was just great in the tournament," Flanagan said.

Bersch said he has worked hard to develop his all-around game. Known early in his career as a spot-up shooter, Bersch is confident in his ability to drive to the basket. He also has spent hours in the weight room, building strength to help out the team with his rebounding.

"Bersch used to be one-demensional, but he really has rounded out his game," said Moorestown coach Tim O'Reilly, whose team plays in the Liberty Division. "You can't just take away his jumper and forget about him. He will hurt you in other ways."

The 6-4 White admits that he loves to play defense, and doesn't expect that to change this season.

"I've grown to love it," White said. "I don't care if I don't score a point. I feel like if I can take the other team's point guard out of his game and make him uncomfortable, that makes the whole other team uncomfortable."

Still, White has worked on improving his offensive game. A lefthanded slasher, he also is a good-enough ballhandler to spend some time at the point.

"[White] creates major matchup problems," O'Reilly said.

The Moorestown coach thinks White will be "as dangerous as [graduated star guard Andre] Byrdsong was, but in different ways."

Flanigan knows the Red Devils face a difficult challenge in trying to defend their state title. But they have a strong base upon which to build this team's success in perhaps New Jersey's tallest backcourt - and maybe its best as well.

"Mike's scoring ability and Kendall's defensive ability makes us a pretty good team," Flanagan said. "They've been around for a while.

"We'll run a lot of two-man plays for them, pick-and-rolls, things like that. They work so well together."