For a fair number of seasons, I would look back on the preceding sports regular season slate and reflect on some of the “honors” that I would see other people post. Things like “most valuable player,” “player who scored the most points,” and similar categories and would usually see the same names and teams listed mentioned over and over in most spots.
I thought I would do something different by singling out players, coaches and teams who did NOT get a lot of press, were NOT the teams everyone was talking about and/or did things that often fly under the radar of many local sports fans and give them some props for doing the things that advance their particular sport.
Because the time between seasons started to get condensed a few years ago and transitioning from one regular season to the postseason to another sports season became busier with less time to prepare, I had gone away from doing that for the last couple of years. However, this winter there were some outstanding performances that I don’t think got the publicity they deserved and so I thought I would bring back what I had once referred to as the “all underrated awards,” this winter.
If you like the idea or want to see more of this type of thing in our coverage of local high school sports, make sure you give us a like and spread the word.
ALL HUSTLE TEAM: NORTHAMPTON
I started making a list of all the top individual “hustle guys” I saw this season and quickly realized that a list of about 11 or 12 players was filled with a majority of Konkrete Kids.
Every time I saw Northampton this winter they were overmatched in size and height, yet showed tons of heart and grit and were in every game. If you look closer at their roster, guys like JJ Kolumber, Tristian Pinnock, Brody Graf, Brady Simmock, Shakim Dunbar, Trent Moyer and Noah Walakovits were ALWAYS hustling after lose balls, boxing out on the boards and were matched up with taller players–yet never backed down.
Looking closer, they had great balance in scoring, forcing turnovers, hitting perimeter shots and rebounding…no one player “stood out” – statistically speaking – but as a unit, they worked extremely well together throughout the regular season.
“BOUNCE BACK” TEAM AWARD: SAUCON VALLEY
After playing in (and splitting) two exhilarating playoff games against favored Notre Dame-Green Pond last year, most people had written off the Panthers after graduating most of its players for the 2024 season. Then, a tough early schedule and injuries to key returning players took Saucon Valley further off the local sports scene’s radar.
But just like a year ago, the Panthers have played great fundamentally sound basketball and have been coming on strong at just the right time–looking to peek in the postseason again.
The Crusaders are once again the ‘team to beat’ in the Colonial League playoffs, but don’t expect Saucon Valley not to show up and deliver strong performances in the League and district postseason action.
MVP ON A NON-PLAYOFF TEAM: PEN ARGYL’S CHASE KENNEDY
The Green Knights also lost a ton of players from last year’s squad–both from graduation and other returning players electing not to come back, yet there was no bigger loss than when Kennedy missed time in December with an injury.
Pen Argyl made great strides improving the program under Kennedy in 2023 and when he returned this season, the team played much better and looked like they were back on the path to bigger and better opportunities in the near future.
“DARK HORSE” TEAM TO BEAT: NAZARETH
Perhaps no playoff team is trending in the WRONG direction more than the Blue Eagles heading into the playoffs.
But also consider: no team may have more talent in the top four spots on their roster. Sina Ramin, Mason Kuehner and Owen Banghart have been one of the strongest, senior “big 3” scoring combinations in the league (with a solid “4th” option in Owen Hasker. They won 12 of their first 16 games this year, beating some strong teams and have a HISTORY of big performances on gigantic stages in their collective histories. They have up-and-coming sophomores like Gavin Kushner and Logan Hahn that have played well at the varsity level in limited time so far. I believe in them and think they can find that “something” they’ve always had…and if I’m right, we’ll see it in the postseason.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN UNDERCLASSMAN: LIBERTY’S BLAKE HARGROVE
In games that I personally witnessed, no underclassman stepped up more in the spotlight than the Hurricanes’s sophomore against Parkland in a non-conference game on January 24th at the Memorial Gym.
Playing against the top two defenders on one of the state’s strongest large school teams, Hargrove stepped up and made big shot after big shot, sending the game into overtime. After a great freshman season, he’s improved his game in all facets and showed coolness during tense moments of that game. He is a big reason I’m expecting Liberty to have even more success in the playoffs than they did last year.
IT’S UP TO YOU! Shoot us a “like” if you enjoyed the return of this “underrated” list of awards and if we should keep searching for and identifying standout players, coaches and teams.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.