Three consecutive appearances in the District 2 Class 2A championship game. A 71-10 overall record in those three seasons. A 56-game Wyoming Valley Conference regular-season winning streak that led to three consecutive Division III titles.
The two guys who contributed heavily to that success, though, were gone. Rasheed Moore was off to play at East Stroudsburg University and Ryan Krawczeniuk to Kutztown University.
In their place was an interesting albeit eclectic collection of basketball talent for Meyers boys coach Pat Toole to mold into a cohesive unit. A unit that won the District 2 Class 2A championship, something Toole didn’t foresee entering the season.
“I’d be lying if I told you I did,” Toole said. “I thought we could be competitive in the districts. A lot of that, like in states, is the luck of the draw.
“We had a tough road. We had Hanover, which already beat us. We had Mid Valley, who a lot of people favored in the tournament. Then our archrivals Holy Cross (in the championship game). I know with got a big break with Connor Jones not in the lineup. But what comes around goes around. Last year, we had to play them without Tyriek (Steward).”
The entire season has been a bit of a whirlwind for the Mohawks (19-7), who play District 4 third seed Towanda (22-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wilkes University in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs.
It started with five losses in the first 10 games. Not a good way for a team that started the season with one returning starter in Steward until Matt DeMarco decided to rejoin the team early in the campaign. Those losses, though, came to top-shelf opponents — Crestwood (21-4), Holy Cross (20-6), Scranton Prep (21-3), Abington Heights (25-1) and Philadelphia power Constitution (23-5).
“As much as I’d have liked to have us playing better at that point, I did realize the competition we played was going to make it difficult to have a winning record at that point of the season,” Toole said.
Meyers was definitely going to be a work in progress, and one that would stumble twice in three games later in the season.
The first came against Holy Redeemer where a 63-55 loss on Jan. 31 ended the WVC regular-season winning streak at 64 games. After routing winless Wyoming Area in their next game, the Mohawks then fell 65-62 in overtime to Hanover Area.
“It seems like since we lost those games to Hanover and Redeemer, the kids started to get back to playing tough, aggressive defense,” Toole said. “That was obviously lacking in the Redeemer game and Hanover game.”
Prior to the Redeemer game, only three of 17 opponents were able to score at least 60 points against Meyers. Since the Hanover Area loss, no opponent has scored more than 49.
That six-game span included a 46-42 victory over city rival GAR to clinch the Division III championship. Moreover, that game brought a vital piece to the puzzle.
The District 2 athletic committee approved the transfer of Lamont Twyman from GAR to Meyers in time for him to play against his former teammates. Twyman took over at the point. Point guard Shahee Aurelus slid from the point to shooting guard. Former starter Tyon Thomas ended up on the bench where he has excelled as a high-energy sixth man.
And there’s more.
Senior Dominic Pittman developed into a solid inside player, especially in the rebounding department. That allowed Meyers to be a little quicker albeit a little shorter on the inside when needed. It also allowed 6-foot-5 sophomore Ryan Wasley to get a breather and not be rushed through his first varsity season. And, of course, the veteran presence of Steward and DeMarco has helped as well.
“I feel like we have defined roles on this team,” Toole said.
Still, Toole knows how things can come crumbling down in an instant in the state playoffs. That’s why he has cautioned his players not to overlook Towanda because it lost to Nanticoke, a team the Mohawks handled easily twice this season. Towanda has won 22 games and the Black Knights didn’t do it by sheer luck.
“They need to realize it’s one step at a time right now, you can’t be looking ahead,” Toole said. “No one in this tournament is a bad team. I don’t care who they played or what their records are, you don’t get to this point of the season and not have some people who can put the ball in the basket.”