Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2022-23 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed thus far can be found here.)
Council Rock North boys basketball had its finest season in head coach Jesse Krasna’s sixth year at the helm with a 17-9 record in 2021-22.
Krasna’s squad won a District 1 Class 6A tournament game before a nine-point loss to Lower Merion, which went on to win the district championship and make it all the way to the final four in the state tournament.
“Last year it was a ton of fun for our kids,” Krasna, who played at Pennsbury and Ursinus, said. “We had really good leadership from our seniors last season.”
Returning senior Jack Blum was an all-league honorable mention last season. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Senior-laden CR North then took a five-point loss to West Chester East in the district playback round forcing them to wait another year to end a state playoff drought going back to 2012.
All-league first-teamer Bernie Parent, the grandson of the Flyers great, and all-league honorable mention selection Logan Saifer have graduated as CR North recalibrates and aims to again be toward the top of the Suburban One League Patriot Division, make a run in districts, and break that state-playoff dry spell.
“I think the first thing that we’re going to have to replace is Bernie Parent, Shane Anhalt, Logan Saifer, and Ryan Burkett graduating,” Krasna said. “Those four guys all played a ton, three of them were starters for basically the whole season.”
Returning seniors Jack Blum, an all-league honorable mention choice last year, and Adam Mahtat will fill in the leadership roles while the holes left in the backcourt leave plenty of opportunity for younger players to step in.
“(Blum and Mahtat) have some length, some size and really good experience,” Krasna said. “We’re going to be looking to those guys for some leadership.”
Blum, a 6-4 guard who has seen court time since his freshman season, will help keep some continuity in the ball-handling department and spearhead a sizable lineup that should have an advantage on the glass.
“I’m going to have more ball-handling control,” Blum said. “So I feel like there’s a lot more on me and I gotta bring the guys together.”
Mahtat, standing at 6-5, is a good shooter and can also score in the paint.
Size and rebounding should be a strength; CR North’s West Chester Big 64 roster listed seven players 6-2 or taller, including Blum and Mahtat.
“We’re a big team,” Blum said. “It brings mismatch problems. A lot of times on a smaller guy I can post up and on a bigger guy it’s easier for me to go around him.”
Blum showed his all-around game at Big 64 with nine points (including a coast-to-coast dunk), eight rebounds, two assists and two steals as his team topped Downingtown East, 56-40.
Sophomore 5-9 guard Oliver Schaefer, one of the few players under 6-foot, is a player to watch; the sharpshooting guard got some playing time as a freshman and hit four 3s to finish with a team-high 14 points in the Big 64 win over Downingtown East.
“From a guard standpoint, there’s a big opportunity for some younger guys,” Krasna said. “Oliver Schaefer is one of the guys that got some time last year off the bench. He’s only going to be a sophomore, and he’s had a really good offseason. I think all his hard work and dedication is going to lead to a bigger role for him.”
Sophomore 6-2 guard Julian Matera, who plays quarterback on the football team, will also have a role, Krasna said. Matera brings leadership and toughness.
Krasna and Blum are hoping practice and preseason events in the next few months help the team gel once the regular season rolls around.
“Just getting more touches together because four of our seniors are gone from last year and we went six or seven deep,” Blum said. “Only really me and Adam were main players last year so getting more touches together is really going to help us.”
Getting back to districts and making a run into the state tournament depends on how Council Rock North does in the SOL Patriot; their division foes include Bensalem, Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Council Rock South and Harry S. Truman.
Bensalem won the division with a 13-3 league record last season while CR North(11-5), Neshaminy (10-6), and Pennsbury (10-6) were all challengers. All four teams made it into the SOL championship tournament with Bensalem falling to Freedom Division’s Cheltenham in the title game. Bensalem made it to the district quarterfinals and qualified for states.
“Our league is really competitive,” Krasna said. “Neshaminy is an awesome team. Bensalem won the league last year and they have a ton of talent back. Everybody’s good.
“We know that there’s a big opportunity for us in terms of being able to leave our mark, but that it’s not going to happen without us putting in the work and coming together.”
Bensalem loses two first-team all-league choices in Aaron Sanders and Jeremy Rodriguez and a second-team selection in Allen Myers but has young players who gained experience after last season’s success and are primed to fill the gaps.
Neshaminy returns senior Sean Curley, a first-team all-league pick last year, and junior Nate Townsend, an honorable mention choice, but loses second-team pick Evan Esposito.
Pennsbury returns senior Tyler Kocak, an honorable mention choice, while losing first-team Aidan McCormack and second-team Evan McNeely.
Council Rock North’s lineup won’t be set for a while as it irons out the best fit and prepares for its opening game against Germantown Academy on Nov. 29; league play opens against Truman Dec. 9.
The good thing is CR North plenty of size, depth and experienced seniors that should make Krasna’s job a bit easier.
“Our goal is the same as last year, hopefully get [to districts] again and maybe get to states,” Blum said. “That’s the goal.”