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Manchester boys hoops ready to get busy

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

NEW FRANKLIN  Life is about to get much busier for the Manchester Panthers.

That will happen when it's the first week of February and you've only been able to play eight games and three conference contests. With a handful of COVID-19-related postponements and cancelations, it's been a halting start to the year.

Norwayne Joey Raudebaugh drives the lane between Manchester Jordan Schindewolf and Trent Pappas.

What that means from here on out is a lot of weeks with three scheduled games leading up to the tournament, something veteran head coach Gene Schindewolf knows will present a multitude of challenges.

"We're hoping we're going to get 19 games in at this point ... we (had) two (last) week, then we're pretty much playing Tuesday, Friday and Saturday every week after that," Schindewolf said. "The obvious challenge is going to be your depth and how deep is your bench. We're playing nine guys right now, a solid seven, so the other two will have to play more minutes as time goes on."

The good news for Manchester is that in its three Principals Athletic Conference games to date, it's 2-1. That puts the Panthers in the middle of the league race, something not many expected entering the year for the young squad. A 3-5 overall record underscores that the team is a work in progress, but through eight games there have been signs that progress is indeed being made.

High school boys basketball can be an unforgiving place for teams with no seniors in the starting lineup, but with four juniors and a sophomore in their starting five, the Panthers have a chance to develop chemistry that could benefit them this season and next year.

"The biggest thing has been carrying  what we've been working on in practice to games," Schindewfolf said. "It's just more intensity on the offensive and defensive ends."

The veteran coach cited the team's overall youth as one potential reason for that disconnect, but said of late he's seen the Panthers improve when it comes to both battling hard in practice and replicating that effort in games.

One of the players leading that charge has been junior Trent Pappas, who tallied 35 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and six steals in a two-game span to fuel wins over Chippewa and Orrville.

Schindewolf pointed to Pappas as a player who receives extra defensive attention from opponents because of his shooting ability, which in turn creates space for teammates. Perhaps taking a cue from that added defensive attention he receives, Pappas has shown his own improvement on the defensive end, according to his coach.

One unique aspect of the season has been the coaching staff's decision not to name official team captains. Most teams pick between one and three veterans to serve as captains, but this season, Manchester is trying captaincy by the whole group.

"They just kind of have all filled in ... we didn't name captains and we wanted this team to be their team," Schindewolf said. "They have all stepped up at different times and it's interesting in the halftime locker room, we talk to them for a bit, but they're tuned into the game and they see different adjustments that can be made."

In-game adjustments are one thing, but Manchester likely won't be making adjustments to take advantage of the recent Ohio High School Athletic Association decision to allow teams to play as many as two games in a single day the remainder of the season. The change was made in an effort to allow squads to get more games in if they're been significantly affected by COVID-related postponements and cancellations.

Schindewolf likened the idea to what players do during AAU basketball, playing multiple games a day. However, he expressed doubt that his team would consider any two-game days in an effort to get more games in. The plan is to try to play three games a week, stay healthy and continue the development process for a team that has shown signs of growth and would like nothing more than to continue that upward trajectory the rest of the way.