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Stability is the key for St. John

• Numbers up for the Fighting Irish as Lahna begins second full season at the helm

December 2, 2013
By RICK THORP - Times Leader Sports Writer ( , Times Leader


One of its definitions is - ''continuance without change.''

Another refers to chemistry. But, that's in the scientific sense. However, it could also apply to sports.

Article Photos

PICTURED IS the 2013-14 St. John Central basketball team. Front row, from left, are Anthony Busack, Guy Pagano, Kyle Whorton, Malik Ford, Matt Gress, Brian Bossell and Zac Schnegg. Middle row, from left, are Garrett Holubeck, Lance Williams, Jonathan Bossell, Kyle Ogden, Cameron Opic and Aaron Rataiczak. Top, from left, are assistant coach Doug Rataiczak, Zach Clark, Brycen Murray, head coach Kevin Lahna, Nick Petho, Jacob Jones and assistant coach Duane Gulla.

St. John Central's boys' basketball program is one place where stability hasn't resided recently. During the past decade, the program has seen plenty of coaches come and go. Current bench boss Kevin Lahna aims to change that.

''We're ready to have some stability,'' he said. ''I think that's what this program's been lacking for a long time.

''I think, especially now. We kept it going last summer to give the kids some sort of foundation. They aren't going to have to regroup this year (under a new coach).

''It's been good for the kids. I'm trying to build something here.''

This is Lahna's second full season with the Irish. He ascended to the head coaching spot midway through the 2011-12 campaign when Jim Miller stepped down.

''I had been coaching at the junior high level at St. John for a few years and being a head coach was something I had thought about eventually doing,'' Lahna said. ''The timing was a little surprising. I wasn't looking or expecting to be the head coach that quick.''

But there he was, asked to take over the reins.

The bond between Lahna and the his team started out well. The Irish beat Paden City in overtime in Lahna's debut. later in the season, a triumph against East Richland Christian gave him a 2-8 mark in a shortened early stint.

''We didn't change things much (when I took over),'' Lahna remembered. ''I'd been working with Jim when I (became the head coach).

''The transition wasn't as hard as it might have been.''

Once he took full reins of the program, he started to build it in his mold. Included in that were activities in the offseason, etc. that he thought were lacking before.

And, the fact, the same coaches have been in place for a while is huge.

''When they see you're here year after year that solidifies the program even more,'' Lahna said. ''It's certainly a lot easier on the kids. And, that's why we're here ... for the kids.''

The Irish spent this past summer playing in the Wheeling Recreation League, along with a few shootouts.

''We had about 75 to 80 percent of the kids put the time in,'' Lahna said. ''We have to get that summer work in because it's a big part of our year.''

In one of those shootouts, Lahna recalled a situation against Steubenville, one in which his players came out on top.

''It wasn't a big thing, but it gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the summer,'' he said.

St. John lost six seniors from last winter's 8-15 club.

''To us, it was a successful year,'' Lahna said. ''We haven't had eight wins in a while. It was huge and gave us something to build on for this year.''

Five players are back in the fold for the Irish this season, including two seniors - Garrett Holubeck and Jonathan Bossell.

Holubeck (5-10), also a standout cross country runner, will fill a post role.

''He was just starting to see some varsity action when I became head coach,'' Lahna said. ''He brings a lot of heart and intensity to the team and he's one of our leaders. He's the kind of kid you want to mold other kids to be.''

In Bossell (6-0), the Irish have a player who can play the 4 or 5 spots on the floor.

''He's not flashy, but he'll bust his butt on every play,'' Lahna said. ''We're looking for he and Garrett top be leaders and help the underclassmen get through the tough times.''

Lahna has been extremely impressed with freshman Guy Pagano (5-7). He sees Pagano has his point guard.

''All he thinks about is basketball,'' Lahna said. ''The sky's the limit for him.

"If we could get four of five kids every year like him we'd be in good shape. He's just a gym rat.''

Malik Ford (5-8) is a junior Lahna is counting on for defense.

''He's a stopper,'' Lahna said. ''If we need someone to slow someone down, he'll have that role.''

Two other juniors in the mix are Zach Clark (5-11) and Lance Williams (5-8). Clark comes to the Irish program from East Richland Christian, while Williams came on board late last year after a stint at Wheeling Park.

Clark will fill a post role, with Williams a guard spot.

Senior Kyle Whorton (5-6) is playing his first year and Lahna sees him contributing more and more as the season moves along.

Younger players that may make an impact include junior Jacob Jones, sophomore Zac Schnegg and freshman Cameron Opic.

''With our reserve kids the future is looking bright,'' Lahna said. ''We have the numbers and the talent where we can continue to build ever year and get things to where we want them to be.''

Lahna is assisted by Doug Rataiczak and Duane Gulla.



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