S. CANAAN TWP. — Zach Walsh couldn’t help but chuckle thinking about the historical relevance of his team’s win.
That’s because he’s been there every step of the way, the agonizing defeats and the momentum-building wins, on a journey that finally produced a championship.
Walsh scored a team-high 19 points Tuesday night as second-ranked North Pocono defeated Western Wayne, 65-25, to clinch the Lackawanna League Division II title, the program’s first league crown since 2001.
“Two years after that, I was born,” Walsh said. “That is crazy. This feels great, honestly.”
North Pocono (10-2) started a rebuilding process in Walsh’s freshman season. He and classmates Damarco Maglio and Matt Domanish saw spot duty as the Trojans finished 5-18 overall and 3-10 in the division.
A year later, North Pocono again went 5-18.
But last winter, the Trojans started to show flashes of the future, going 11-11 in the regular season. Still, there were tough losses that included one in overtime to eventual District 2 Class 5A champion Wallenpaupack and a 48-46 defeat to Abington Heights in the District 2 Class 5A playoffs on a buzzer-beater.
Those steps forward, however, laid the foundation for this season, one that came with its own set of extraordinary circumstances.
At the start, North Pocono got ready for competition through virtual practices as the school board attempted to curb the spread of coronavirus through the Christmas holiday. Games started in late January after a scholastic sports shutdown by Gov. Tom Wolf. The Trojans hit the ground running, winning 13 of 15 games overall.
“This is so important to this program,” Maglio said. “We want to build off this, though. Putting up a new number on the banner for a league championship is big, but we are trying to build a new culture with this program.
“I think we responded to the challenges by having guys who showed up to the offseason workouts, and did what they needed to do and we worked hard on communicating with each other and that shows on the court.”
Led by Walsh, the Trojans secured the first goal of a division championship by racing to a 19-2 lead over Western Wayne in the first quarter. He had nine points on 4 of 7 shooting.
“Before the game, coach (Pat Shields) wanted us to not just play Western Wayne, but play ourselves,” Walsh said. “We played hard at the defensive end and that really helped us.”
North Pocono had intensity and focus despite its big lead.
Kollin Leschinsky, another senior, scored eight of his 10 points and Kyle Serine came off the bench to score eight points and grab seven rebounds in the second quarter.
North Pocono shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half as several players contributed.
Shields, in his second stint as head coach of the program, played 16 players, 12 of whom scored. Domanish and Maglio combined for 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals and Ryan Ruddy had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“It’s an amazing thing, it really is,” Shields said. “You look and two years ago, we were 5-18 and a lot of times, we couldn’t get out of our own way. Then we went through last year where we improved a lot, but still had tough losses and lost at the buzzer to Abington. There were chances for us to fold up the tents and maybe head in the wrong direction. They came back and dug in. They lifted together, worked out together.
“I am proud of them and you better believe I am pleased with how they have gone about their business to get us to this point. It’s been a long time and we are hoping these guys are the inspiration to string even more good things together.”
Western Wayne’s Matt Henneforth scored 20 of his team’s 25 points.
Delaware Valley 56, Wallenpaupack 50
At Wallenpaupack, Mike Leonardo scored 18 points to lead No. 10 Delaware Valley.
Chris Cruz had 13 points for the Warriors and Noah Newton added 11.
Jack Smith scored 22 points for Wallenpaupack and Michael Simon had 10.
Valley View 64, Scranton Prep 46
At Valley View, Adam Howanitz scored 10 points in the first quarter as the seventh-ranked Cougars raced out to a 20-4 lead in a Division I game.
Howanitz finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Zack Kovalchik scored 22 points for the winners.
Gavin Bednarz scored 19 points for No. 6 Scranton Prep and Robert Rossi had 11.
Abington Heights 37, West Scranton 30
At Scranton, Harry Johnson scored 17 points and Matt Show added nine as the second-ranked Comets topped the Invaders.
Antonio Torres led the Invaders with eight points.
Holy Cross 62, Dunmore 50
At Holy Cross, Patrick Bennie scored 22 points to lead the fifth-ranked Crusaders to a Division III win.
Tyler Mendicino added 15 points for the winners.
Adriel DeNaples scored 22 points for Dunmore.
Riverside 60, Carbondale Area 46
At Riverside, Michael Rickert scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter when the fourth-ranked Vikings outscored Carbondale Area, 25-9.
Todd Monahan led Riverside with 19 points.
Jaheim Brooker scored 16 points for Carbondale Area.
Lakeland 55, Old Forge 35
At Old Forge, Caleb Vigil scored 19 points to lead Lakeland.
Lacota Dippre had 11 points for the Chiefs.
Michael DiGregorio scored 11 points for Old Forge.
Scranton 78, Honesdale 48
At Honesdale, Jason Shields scored 27 points to lead No. 1 Scranton in a Division I-II crossover.
Arvel Chandler, John Rose and Kevin Lazdowsky each had 12 points for the Knights.
Jacob Lyle hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points for Honesdale.
Mid Valley 57, Susquehanna 35
At Susquehanna, Gabe Tanner scored 12 of his 14 points in the third quarter when No. 8 Mid Valley outscored Susquehanna, 24-6, to break open a tight game.
Danny Nemitz led the Spartans with 22 points and Tyler O’Connor also scored 14.
Gavin Baker had 19 points for Susquehanna.
Elk Lake 52, Montrose 44
At Montrose, Matt Mowry scored 20 points to lead No. 9 Elk Lake to a Division IV win.
Jake Gustin had 13 points for the Warriors.
Trent Leonard had 18 points for Montrose.
Blue Ridge 62, Lackawanna Trail 38
At Lackawanna Trail, Connor Cranage scored 17 points to lead Blue Ridge.
Dylan Bradley added 12 points for the Raiders.
Owen Lisk scored eight points for Lackawanna Trail.
Mountain View 37, Forest City 34
At Mountain View, Ryan Henke scored 13 points to lead the Eagles.
Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.