Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda basketball team was young last season. With three sophomores in the starting lineup, not many had high expectations for the Lumberjacks.
But by the end of the season, youthful inexperience started to give way to a budding chemistry that helped NT put a scare in Niagara Frontier League power Niagara Falls in the playoffs.
The Jacks' talent level was undeniable but they had to learn how to win first. Now, one year older, a loaded junior class has many in the Western New York community tabbing NT as an NFL favorite this season.
NT coach Ryan Mountain has kept the message simple from the start of practice: nobody wins anything in November.
"It's something we addressed Day One — we're going to keep our head in the clouds and our feet on the ground, and stay grounded," he said. "Those are all opinions of other people and the greatest opponent is the one that lies within. We're going to stick to our only expectation: to be the best team we can possible be. Hopefully that team goal can translate into an extension of our season into March."
The Jacks have their own version of the ultra-popular 'Big 3' this season in senior Joe Piotrowski and juniors Chris Woodard and Nehemiah Stone.
Woodard is an inside and outside threat who can run the floor and make teams pay with his defensive prowess in the paint. Stone runs the show and often pushes the pace for the Jacks, who relied on his consistent energy and playmaking abilities last season.
Piotrowski has a high basketball IQ and has spent six days a week in the gym for the past year preparing for his season. Mountain expects big things out of all three players.
"We've all worked on our games in the offseason, maybe none more than Joe," Mountain said. "He's a basketball player first. A lot of the other kids are other sports like football first. Joe has worked six days a week for the last year, and he looks good and is real confident.