Paul Romanczuk was in attendance Saturday at an over-packed Colonial Elementary School to witness Octorara overwhelm Glen Mills for a District One title, so he’s quick to praise the Braves for their fast-paced offense.
But soon after those plaudits, Romanczuk is equally prompt with a reminder that his Archbishop Carroll team averages close to 70 points per game (68.7, to be exact) and has run with some of the nation’s best teams.
That ability introduces a nuance to Friday’s PIAA Class AAA opener at Harriton at 7:30: Where most teams would prefer to slow Octorara down in absolute terms, Romanczuk’s team will focus on dictating when, not if, to change tempo.
“We don’t want to go just right into it and allow them to run up and down,” Romanczuk said by phone Wednesday. “But it’s not like we can’t. We’re a good transition team. We want to pick our spots a little bit and not let it get out of control, but we want to push the tempo.”
Romanczuk has plenty of good things to say about Octorara, the District One champs. He pegs them as “sneaky athletic,” as in it’s hard to get over just how difficult to contain – horizontally and vertically – the likes of Levi Worthington, Tarojae Brake and Andrew Forman can be. Romanczuk describes Brake as someone who “knows what the bottom of the net looks like,” saying it’s no accident that he’s averaging 22.8 points per game for Octorara (25-2).
But the Patriots (19-6) aren’t bad in the guard department either. They’ve got a lightning quick point in Josh Sharkey, a physical yet nimble two in David Beatty who has displayed a more consistent shooting game of late, and a tertiary scoring option in Ryan Daly, who at 6-4 is a physical match for Octorara’s 6-3 Jackson Ray, even if the former is a shooting guard and the latter a power forward.
Oh yeah, and there’s that Derrick Jones guy. You know, the one averaging 18.2 points per game, including 23 ppg in the last five games, the one who picked UNLV among many suitors in part because of its up-tempo, run-and-gun style. Don’t expect a little speed to faze him.
When it comes to slowing down Octorara, Jones and Worthington are likely to matchup, especially on the glass. Worthington, who burned Glen Mills for 24 points, could be a handful, with his ability to get out in transition but also step out and hit jumpers.
The defensive plan on Brake won’t be as straightforward, with Romanczuk likely to throw several looks at the lanky 6-2 guard, including Beatty, defensive specialist Samir Taylor and John Rigsby. Taylor, who missed Carroll’s District 12 third-place win over Audenried with a recurrence of a nagging thumb injury, has been given a clean bill of health.
Romanczuk’s main focus is on not giving Octorara mistakes to capitalize on, which beyond pace or average scoring (they’re at 68.0 ppg) is the real key.
“They do a good job getting up and down the court,” Romanczuk said. “They’re very good at converting turnovers into points and converting bad shots into points. We want to take care of the ball, take good, high percentage shots, and maybe get in for some offensive rebounds.”