Tonawanda News — Jesse Lalka is gone and the Tonawanda boys basketball team has been left with the reality of moving on. The school’s all-time leading scorer was the heartbeat of the Warriors, who won the regular season ECIC IV championship last season when Lalka, now at Daemen College, eclipsed the 1,000 point mark in the midst of the memorable campaign.
This year’s squad is a completely different team despite returning Lalka’s sidekick, senior center Clayton Hess, and from the get-go the Warriors are going to look to run on teams and utilize some added quickness.
“There’s no doubt, offensively, you’re never going to replace Jesse Lalka — ever,” said Tonawanda coach Henry Hughes. “But we look more like we can run and we’ll see if we’re going to change our philosophy.”
Hess has developed into an all-around force on the basketball court. He can shoot it from every spot on the floor, can handle the ball and perplexes opposing coaches because of his ability to take center’s off the dribble.
But even though the senior is talented, the pressure is going to be elevated this season on Hess without Lalka in the mix. Hughes said that it’ll be important for the senior to take everything in stride and maintain his composure when team’s are game-planning to stop him.
“Clayton’s going to have to really step up because teams are going to be all over him,” Hughes said. “Hopefully he doesn’t get frustrated and he’s able to keep his composure. He’s always had Jesse there and last year they were all over both of them and this year it’ll only be him.”
The Warriors have been a half-court team the past few seasons behind Lalka’s shooting and Hess’s all-around game, but this year Hughes said he may be forced to let his young team loose.