COVENTRY TWP. It’s rare that a high school basketball might find name tags useful on the court halfway through the season, but the Coventry Comets certainly could have handed out some "Hi my name is" stickers prior to their biggest win of the season so far.
Through the first half of the season, at least one starter was missing in every game for the Comets, who nonetheless went 6-5 in the first 11 games. Yet, as they returned their starting lineup intact prior to a much-anticipated matchup with the lone undefeated team remaining in league play, Norton, the Comets were excited to have their starting five back together.
"Eleven games in now and we hadn’t played one game with whole team yet," second-year head coach Mike DiFalco said. "We have battled the injury bug all year, but now things are starting to click a little more because we have all of our guys."
DiFalco pointed to Norton’s defeat of Woodridge as a key development in the league race because it meant that if Coventry won out in the league, it would capture the Portage Trail Conference Metro title.
Consider the first big step in that much larger endeavor a success, as the Comets powered past Norton 62-56, one game after trouncing Cloverleaf with their reunited starting five.
So far this season, starters Jayson Wagner (foot), Jarmond Hogg (knee), Micah Wallace (foot) and Treon Sibley (ankle) all missed time with injuries. Senior center Sam Vanadia has been the lone member of the starting lineup to avoid a major injury, but in the absence of the other starters are various points - Hogg and Sibley both missed the Comets’ first win over Cloverleaf in December - players such as Wyatt Stover, Cody Juresvich, C.J. Zittle and Nate Skaggs have stepped in and done their best to fill in the missing pieces.
The Norton game underscored how effective Coventry can be when its lineup is whole, as Hogg quickly rediscovered his form and poured in 26 points, with Vanadia and Sibley also playing well. It was the Comets’ first matchup of the year with Norton and although the Panthers still hold a one-game lead in the standings, a Coventry win in the second matchup of the year would erase that.
"We’re just getting our chemistry back after playing so many different lineups and having multiple different personnel groupings on the floor," DiFalco said. "We’re getting guys healthy and it’s big being able to press. Before, it was hard to press for long stretches because we didn’t have the bodies to keep up that pace."
Juresvich is one of the players who has made the most of extra playing time, proving to be a good defender and an active player who can be disruptive with his long arms and leaping ability while also rebounding well.
For the team as a whole, enduring a first half of the season in which they weren’t able to win as much as they wanted while keeping an eye on getting their injured players back was challenging, but the coaching staff sought to remind everyone that a season will have its share of tough times and that they needed to focus on scrapping for wins and not get discouraged.
"Really it was just continuing to be positive, letting them know the season is always going to be one of ups and downs," DiFalco said. "We were fortunate to be able to grind out some wins with guys out and now we have the opportunity to control own destiny."
As they get reacquainted with one another on the court, the Comets are aiming to maximize what remains of the season and avoid the injuries that have plagued them to this point.
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