HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Indiana heading to New Jersey for tournament
December 27, 2013 10:40 AM
by MIRZA ZUKIC
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Greg Lezanic is taking his team to the beach for a holiday getaway. The cold, barren New Jersey beach. And his players are thrilled.

With no holiday tournament scheduled at Indiana High School for the second straight season after one had been held for more than two decades, the Indiana boys’ basketball team is leaving the comforts of home and going a long way.

Indiana will play in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic in Wildwood, N.J., a six-day high school basketball tournament at the spacious Wildwoods Convention Center, located on the famed Wildwoods Boardwalk directly overlooking the beach and Atlantic Ocean.

The Boardwalk Classic is the largest co-ed high school basketball tournament in the country. Last year, 72 boys’ and girls’ teams from New Jersey and the surrounding states participated, and it sounded perfect to Lezanic, Indiana’s second-year coach.

“It came about five or six years ago, when I took the Marion Center girls to Florida,” Lezanic said.

“When I got the job in Indiana, I thought it’d be a nice learning experience for the guys so I started looking to take them somewhere. We were looking for a tournament that fit our needs, and we found this one.

“The kids are excited, and I’m hoping it really brings us together as a team. It looks like we’ll play some good competition that will hopefully get us ready to go for the second half of the season.”

Indiana will play Penns Grove (N.J.) in an opening-round game Saturday evening. The other game in Indiana’s bracket pits Mainland (N.J.) and Greenbrier Christian Academy (Va.). Saturday’s losers will play in a consolation game Sunday afternoon, followed by the winners in the championship game.

The tournament field is made up of 10 four-team brackets, and a champion is crowned in each bracket.

The scouting report is skimpy on Indiana’s first opponent.

New Jersey’s high school basketball season starts two weeks after Pennsylvania’s, and Penns Grove has played one game, a 37-point win. That leaves Lezanic and the Indians with a small body of work to study.

“We seem to match up well,” Lezanic said, basing his answer on the Penns Grove roster. “They have three or four kids that are 6-4, 6-5. But you look at their 6-4 guys and they’re around 180 pounds. We have guys like Darrious Carter, who’s 6-5, 205. Physically, we match up, but that’s without seeing them. You go into a game like this and you really don’t know what to expect. The first three minutes, we’ll see what we have. I’ll be watching them warm up, that’s for sure.”

The novelty of playing in an out-of-state tournament against ramped-up competition adds an element of excitement for his players, Lezanic said.

“The kids are excited to play someone different,” he said. “It’s new and exciting for them.”

The Indians have bolted to a 6-1 start, though they’ve been sitting on a loss for a week.

Indiana opened the season by steamrolling its first three opponents, then pulling out closer wins over Mount Pleasant, Highlands and Punxsutawney. But the Indians suffered a 15-point loss at section rival Knoch in their last game on Dec. 20 to come back to earth.

The Indians have high hopes for this season after returning the entire roster from last year’s WPIAL playoff team. Because of that, the Indians are widely considered the favorite in section 1-AAA and a contender for the WPIAL Class AAA title.

With the heart of their section schedule coming up in January, they hope to use a strong showing in New Jersey as a springboard into section play.

“They’re kids. I hope they didn’t put a bunch of pressure on themselves,” Lezanic said. “We’re just not doing the little things you have to do to win basketball games on the defensive end. Not contesting shots, not boxing out, standing around. It’s almost like we get complacent.

“On offense, I’ve got some scorers. But we just haven’t been shooting the ball well in the first month. Against Knoch, we were 0-for-19 on 3-point shots. That’s not the type of team I have. I didn’t think we could go as cold as we’ve gone. … It’s nothing that good hard work and a little bit of confidence can’t fix. It’s just a matter of going out on the court and playing hard.”

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