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Grenadiers face tough Donegal in state opener

March 07. 2013 11:42PM

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GAR will be seeing double tonight, as in the twins who will lead District 3 third seed Donegal — seniors Jason and Martin Dietrich.

The brothers were instrumental in Donegal’s breakthrough season and will be once again as District 2 runner-up GAR (17-9) faces the Indians (26-2) in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A boys basketball tournament at 7 p.m. at Holy Redeemer High School.

Jason Dietrich, a 6-foot-2 guard, leads the Indians with a 15.3 scoring average. Martin Dietrich, a 6-3 forward, is right behind his twin at 15.1 points per game. While they are the main guys, 6-foot-6 senior Matt Foltz (11.5) and 6-foot senior Dylan Houseal (10.6) also average in double figures, and Donegal averages just over 62 points per game as a team.

“They’re very athletic,” GAR coach Paul Brown said. “They go from 6-6 to 6-foot and you can throw a few 6-3’s and 6-2’s there. They get up and down the floor, they rebound well and they love to score points.”

It hasn’t always been that way for Donegal. The program hit a rough patch from 2005-08, going 8-61 in that span. Sixth-year coach Ryan Butt, though, has steadily pulled the Indians out of that hole. The team posted its first winning record in seven seasons with 14 victories in 2010-11. It reached 20 wins in 2011-12 before falling for the third consecutive season in the first round of the District 3 playoffs.

The Indians got out of the gates quickly this season, winning 23 in a row before losing 72-65 to Class 4A power Lancaster McCaskey. They entered the D3-3A tournament as the second seed, but were knocked off by third-seeded and eventual champion Berks Catholic 41-38 in the semifinals. They recovered to defeat top-seeded Susquehanna Township 66-55 in the third-place game.

In one sense, Donegal is akin to Abington Heights, the team that defeated GAR for the D2 title, in that the Indians are not one-dimensional on offense. Donegal, however, will be chucking up the three-pointers unlike any opponent GAR has seen this season. Houseal has 40 treys so far followed by Jason Dietrich (32) and Martin Dietrich (31). The trio has connected on 35 percent of its shots behind the arc.

“We didn’t play anybody that shoots the three as much as they do,” Brown said. “They love to shoot the three-ball. All five starters and the first guy off the bench love to shoot threes.”

Donegal can also penetrate or go to its big guy, Foltz, who is third on the team in field goal attempts. The latter could be a distinct possibility. Abington found success going inside against the Grenadiers, who, aside from 6-foot-10 Christian Skrepenak, don’t have much size. Once Skrepenak’s aggressiveness was curtailed by foul trouble, the Comets really attacked the paint in the 56-37 victory.

“Christian is definitely an advantage on the offensive end, so we’ll see how they are going to defend him,” Brown said. “We’ve been working a little more on team defense to help him out on the defensive end.”

The GAR offense could use a boost as well. The Grenadiers have scored a combined 77 points in their last two games, their lowest two-game total of the season. Isaiah Francis, an excellent all-around player, leads the team with a 14.2 average in WVC play followed by Skrepenak with 12.6 per game. Francis is the only Grenadier to scored in double figures in each of the last two games.

“From my personal point of view, Isaiah Francis can play with just about anybody on the floor,” Brown said. “I think Isaiah is going to have a decent game for us. We just need some other people to pick up the slack and perform well for us, too.”

The winner moves to Tuesday’s second round, playing the winner of tonight’s game between D11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (23-3) and D3 sixth seed Northeastern (22-4). Those teams play at 7 p.m. at Bethlehem Liberty High School.

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