By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
If you asked any of the East Juniata players about this year, you’d probably get a variation of the same answer: It was one incredible, unforgettable ride.
There was the huge win for the first time at Greenwood since 1986, and the school’s first Tri-Valley League title in the Tigers’ 60-year existence. The perfect regular season came shortly thereafter, setting the school record for most wins (21).
While the road ended earlier than when they wanted — a double-overtime upset loss to Southern Columbia in the District 4 Class AA playoffs — the team more than appreciates what they accomplished, especially seniors Nick Lorenz and Bailey Coder.
Lorenz — who was the only Valley boys player to be named to the Pennsylvania all-state team, nabbing Class AA third-team honors — and his 6-foot-7 towering teammate Coder — were named the Tri-Valley League’s Co-Most Valuable Players.
Well, they can add another shared honor to their remarkable season.
The duo was named The Daily Item’s boys basketball Co-Players of the Year, the first time two players have shared an honor since Milton’s Anthony Fannick and Southern Columbia’s Colin Klebon in the 2007-08 season. It’s the first time two players from the same team were named Co-Players of the Year since Mifflinburg’s Brad Musser and Tim Devanney did so in 2001-02.
“It’s pretty terrific. I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Lorenz said of sharing the honor. “We have some very, very talented teams up that way (in the Valley). It’s a credit to our season and career to be named as Players of the Year. That was really nice.”
“I was really surprised and honored,” Coder added. “It was a really cool thing to happen and glad I could share it with (Lorenz).”
Other players that were considered for Player of the Year honors include Southern Columbia’s Mike Klebon, Lewisburg’s Sam Allen and Shamokin’s Austin Stine and Jake Weaver.
The year that the East Juniata seniors put up was nothing shy of remarkable.
Lorenz became not only East Juniata’s all-time leading scorer, but also Juniata County’s all-time leader with 1,513 points, scoring 542 points this year and a hefty 24.6 ppg, both highs in the Valley.
Lorenz was also the only player in the Valley this season to surpass 500 points. He put up at least 20 in all but four games, and scored a career-high 38 against Harrisburg Academy in January. He also led the Tigers in scoring against Southern Columbia in the playoffs, scoring 26 before fouling out in overtime.
“I kind of had to (score a lot) for my team. The way we were, I was kind of in a sense our engine. If I didn’t go, our team didn’t. I took a lot of responsibility (on),” Lorenz said. Meanwhile, Coder was a rebounding machine, pulling down 312 boards — 14.2 per game — while also scoring 444 points (20.2). Coder posted a double-double in all but three games this year. He also became a 1,000-point scorer this year, recording 1,094 points and jumping up to fifth all-time in East Juniata history.
Lorenz and Coder were the only two players in the Valley this season to average over 20.0 points per game.
“I just tried to go out every game and just help our team win and whatever it takes: rebounding, scoring, blocking shots,” Coder said. “Do all the little things right and hopefully it ends up with a W on the scoreboard.”
Together, they scored nearly 1,000 points, grabbed almost 500 boards and dished out a combined 130 assists in one year.
“We’ve been working together since grade school. We have incredible chemistry and know what we’re thinking,” Coder said. “It comes in handy on the court to have another guy who’s talented and (we can) feed off each other, and it really helps convert great plays and make W’s.”
Coder averaged an impressive 5.1 blocks per game as well, accumulating 113 on the year.
“It was just pretty incredible to have two people on a team scoring 1,000 points. Two to score 1,000 and go undefeated is even better,” Lorenz said. “It just shows that it was just pretty fun to be on a team that was winning and two guys producing, and it was a credit to not just someone just shooting every time.”
For East Juniata coach Brock Anders, he knew he had a special duo about a quarter of the way through the season.
“They were starting to perform admirably together and we got into league play and it was difficult for teams to throw different defenses at us because of how diverse we were,” Anders said. “It was definitely nice to sit back and see the growth of these kids and time and effort they put in to bring the program to heights it’s never seen before.
“It’s a tribute to them and how much time they put in.”
The two on the court together created problems for opposing defenses to slow down. In all but two games, the two each put up double-digit points. Coder had double-digit rebounds in all but one game.
In addition to being named Co-MVP’s of the TVL, they were both named first-team all-stars. Lorenz and Coder were No. 1 and 2, respectively, in TVL scoring, while Lorenz led the league in 3-pointers and assists. Coder led the TVL in both rebounds and blocked shots.
Shamokin’s Zimmerman named Coach of the Year
COAL TOWNSHIP — After a disappointing 5-15 year just two seasons ago, the first losing season for Shamokin this century, Chris Zimmerman transformed the Indians back into a legitimate title contender. Shamokin went 22-4 this past season and won the school’s first District 4 Class AAA banner since 2008-09.
Zimmerman did so in just his second year at the helm.
“It was a great year and we’re looking forward to continued success in the future,” Zimmerman said. “The kids worked their butts off and were rewarded with a district championship and a chance to play in the state playoffs.”
Zimmerman becomes the first former Daily Item Player of the Year — a three-time recipient — to earn Coach of the Year honors.
The Indians’ coach kept Shamokin on track after senior Austin Stine broke both wrists roughly halfway through the year.