It was a huge week for Lakeland and junior Tony Harding. The Chiefs knocked off then No. 10-ranked Old Forge, 41-38. Then, they beat No. 3 Dunmore at the buzzer, 48-46, and finally, topped Holy Cross, 47-45, on the road in overtime.
It helped vault Lakeland to No. 7 in this week’s poll. What’s the difference? Turns out the Chiefs, at least Harding, were hungrier than usual. Here’s more from our interview.
You have any pregame rituals or superstitions? Uh, yeah.
You say that like it’s a bad thing. It is actually. Coach (Jeff) Evans doesn’t allow me to eat before the game. Any time from when I get to the gym to before tipoff, he does not let me eat because he says it makes me play hungry. He says I play better without eating.
So you would be the antithesis of a Snickers commercial? Exactly. I can’t have pizza. I can’t have candy.
Do you find that to be true? It is. I went all week without eating.
\Your team seemed to be pretty hungry this week. Have you ever been part of a week that’s been that good? No, it was a lot of fun and finally started to play some defense. We bought into the system. It’s teamwork. The chemistry is there and we’re just rolling, finally. It’s tough. Going from coach (Dave) Rosenkrans to coach (Ron) Petrunich, it’s a different system.
What’s the big difference? We don’t run plays now. It’s more free flowing. He allows us to go be athletes on the floor and we enjoy it.
For many of us, that’s a big change from how we played the game. With the motion offense we run, instead of coming down the court and having to run to a specific spot, we get to be athletes and make plays, make basketball moves without being nervous or conscious of making a mistake. If we turn the ball over, we just get back and play defense.
Which of those wins this week, Old Forge, Dunmore or Holy Cross? The Dunmore win, just because we were up 8 at halftime, they came back with a big run and we were down 10, and we just kept fighting and finally Bryce Petrunich hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the game. It was nuts. Students rushed the floor, piled on top of Bryce. It was the best game I’ve ever been a part of, hands down. The reaction from everybody, it was crazy.
What did these wins do for your program setting up the final two weeks of the regular season and beyond? I think it gave us more confidence. We seem to always come into these games with Holy Cross, Dunmore, as underdogs. Now, I think we don’t feel like we’re not supposed to win, like it’s our game to win.
Is that a more difficult obstacle to overcome than the physical aspects of the game? Mentally it’s tougher to realize we can play with Holy Cross at Holy Cross, or beat a team that has athleticism like Dunmore.