In a year when practice time is at a premium, and teams only have two months together, Josh Forster is thankful his Cattaraugus-Little Valley boys basketball team can draw on last season’s experience.
The Timberwolves had no seniors last season, so they essentially return all of the 2019-20 squad. And while CLV only went 3-18 last year, Forster saw some improvement by the end of that campaign, and the team picked up where it left off this season.
“I actually have my entire team coming back from last year and that's made a pretty big difference compared to last year, when it was seven sophomores playing varsity for me,” Forster said. “This year I have just two new guys and that's it. Everybody else has varsity experience.
“It definitely helped and I know I was in contact with all of them over the summer too. They were all doing shooting drills and stuff like that, so they were keeping themselves in shape. But just the familiarity with each other, between last year and previous years, the juniors and seniors I have now were some of the first kids that I had when I was coaching modified. So they know me pretty well and I know them pretty well. That's definitely been a big help, especially in a year like this.”
CLV has two seniors this year, Nick Savidge and Elijah Perkins. Junior Josh Halterman is a co-captain with Savidge. Other juniors include Kodi Colton, Dakota Allen, Clayton Frentz, Gage Furl and Johnny Visnesky.
Through five games, Halterman, a point guard who first joined the varsity team as a freshman, is the leading scorer with 15.4 points per game.
“He's really taken a step this year. He's our leading scorer this year, which he definitely needs to be,” Forster said of Halterman. “The other guy that's really taken on that role is another junior guard, John Visnesky. He kind of struggled in the beginning of the year last year and then we went up to our playoff game and those two took a very big step. They seem to be handling things much better this year. Things are slowing down for them, the game's starting to really come together for them altogether. They're starting to get on guys a little bit which is kind of nice. They're doing it the right way now instead of just yelling all the time.”
CLV dropped below .500 (2-3, 2-2 in-league) with a 56-40 loss at first-place Ellicottville on Monday. Before the game, Forster said he’s optimistic the Timberwolves can compete with every team in the CCAA East II division, but recognized Ellicottville represented the biggest test.
“We play Ellicottville (Monday) so that'll be the real test,” Forster said. “But I think we can pretty much compete and hang with any one of those teams. We beat North Collins and Pine Valley now. Franklinville was a close one and I really thought we hurt our own selves in that game. I didn't think they beat us as much as we beat ourselves. So we definitely can be competitive. But Ellicottville is the real test, so we'll find out (Monday) and see how it goes.”
Forster hopes to have his team playing its best basketball by late-March, with hopes of winning a playoff game in the Section 6 Class C1 bracket.
“We're expecting a lot. We've worked hard, they've worked hard for — some of these guys — three, four years now,” he said. “So playoffs especially (are) a big thing for us this year. I think it's just getting the monkey off the back and trying to find that playoff win because we haven't had one since I can't even remember the last one, honestly. I think that's the goal right there: get that first win in the playoffs, make it to the playoffs overall, but that's definitely our goal.”