Kevin Miller & Chris Nagel paced Honesdale to a pair of impressive wins
CARBONDALE — The Hornets tipped-off their varsity hoops campaign in fine fashion this weekend.
Honesdale traveled to the Pioneer City Sunday and Monday to compete in the Jerry Finan Memorial Tournament, an event that holds special significance for the Red & Black's veteran skipper.
"I played in it three times when I was in high school and we won all three," said Coach Wood. "Tom Finan was our coach and this is his father's tournament, so it means a lot to me."
Finan guided the Hornets to several Wayne League titles, District 12 victories and a berth in the PIAA state tournament back in the late 1970s and early '80s.
On Monday night before a big noisy crowd, this current crop of outstanding athletes showed signs that they may be on a similar track as those legendary teams of the past.
Honesdale survived a brutally physical battle with West Scranton in Sunday's semifinal, then just utterly dominated Carbondale in the title tilt Monday night.
The results were back-to-back wins and the 2012 Finan Tourney title.
"I'm very proud of these boys," Coach Wood said.
"They played extremely hard in both games against quality opponents. Winning the Finan Tournament is a really nice accomplishment, but at the same time we don't want it to be the high point of our entire season."
The Hornets won't have much time to savor their season-opening triumph.
Honesdale has one day off, then begins preparation in earnest for a Friday night road trip to Blue Ridge.
That non-league contest is slated for a 7:30 p.m start in New Milford.
Awards & Accolades
West Scranton hasn't altered its basketball modus operandi in decades.
The Invaders are known for their rough, physical play and methodical half court offensive style.
In Sunday evening's semifinal match-up, West once again tried to use brute force to intimidate an opponent.
It didn't work.
Kevin Miller got the Red & Black off to a fast start in this one. Honesdale's junior point guard rained down jumpers from all over the court, leading the Hornets to a 46-36 victory.
Miller shrugged off several West Scranton junk defenses en route to a game-high 20 points.
He would add 14 more in Monday night's title tilt on his way to tournament MVP honors.
"Kevin is so much more than just a scorer," Coach Wood said. "He plays good defense, gets key rebounds and creates opportunities for his teammates. He's a very complete player."
Chris Nagel also made his presence felt in both games of the tourney.
A senior forward who can jump through the ceiling, Nagel tallied 10 points in the win over West, then added 12 more versus the Chargers. He also hauled down 10 rebounds in the championship game and was named to the All-Tourney Team.
"Chris is a lot of fun to watch," Coach Wood said. "He's a very talented athlete who can cause all kinds of problems for other teams.
"Chris played really well in these two games and he definitely deserved a spot on the All-Tournament Team."
One aspect of the Red & Black attack that stood out this weekend was defense.
In those halcyon days under Coach Finan, non-stop hustle and relentless defense were Hornet trademarks. So far, this year's team seems to be reviving that tradition.
Players like Nick Casazza, Pat Hart, Pete Kelly and Kyle Carney swarmed all over enemy ballhandlers in both Finan games. They helped hold the opposition to single digit scoring in five of eight quarters and an average of 34.5 ppg.
"These kids have made a real commitment to playing team defense," Coach Wood said. "Right now, we're looking like we're already in mid-season form when it comes to pressure defense."
Honesdale raced out to a big early lead in the title tilt against Carbondale.
Carney got things going with a pair of free throws two minutes into the first period. Moments later, Jon Gillow powered his way to a bucket in the paint and the Hornets were on their way.
The Red & Black led 18-10 after one and extended that margin to double digits at halftime, 32-21.
Miller put the game out of reach early in the third quarter, draining back-to-back treys that forced Chargers Coach Landon Gabriel to call timeout with his team trailing 38-21.
Honesdale cruised home from there, holding the host team to just 12 points in the entire second half.
"We really kicked it up a notch in the third quarter," said Coach Wood.
"I challenged the a little bit at halftime and they really stepped up. If we keep playing like that, the future is going to be really bright."
Score by Quarters...
HON (2-0) 18 14 16 12 – 60
CAR (1-1) 8 13 7 5 – 33