In the second half of Elba's 56-40 victory over Oakfield-Alabama on Thursday night, #55 John Hochmuth demonstrated what a dominant big man can do to lift a team.
Displaying solid and practiced post-play skills, the 6' 4" senior scored 19 points and blocked five shots in the game, with the third and fourth quarters being his most productive.
I've never seen a high school kid who works harder than John," said Head Coach Ciaci Zambito. "He makes my job easy. It's so much fun to coach him. He is our best practice player every single day, and finally, I think, all of his hard work that he has done throughout his career is really starting to pay off."
Zambito wouldn't go out on a limb and say Hochmuth is the most dominant player in the Genesee Region, but he still gives him very high grades.
"John is the most dominant post player I've seen at Elba, ever," Zambito said. "I played with a couple of good post players. But especially in terms of the defensive end of things, he doesn't just block shots, he changes shots, and obviously you know what he can do underneath the basket on offense."
The test of where Hochmuth stands in GR could come when Elba faces Attica, whenever that might be, since a recent game was canceled and needs to be rescheduled. Attica has 6' 5" junior Owen Thompson, who scored 20 last night in the Blue Devils' 77-44 victory over Wheatland-Chili.
The Lancers are off to a 12-0 start on the year and Hochmuth said it's fun to be part of a team that has really grown into a bonded unit.
"We're all brothers on the team," Hochmuth said. "We all like each other outside of school, in school. We're family and that's why we play great together."
Basketball is a team game and one reason Hochmuth is able to thrive in the post is his teammates offer their own scoring threats, and when the defense opens a little space to guard them, they know how to feed Hochmuth the ball.
"Opposing teams focus on John," Zambito said. "They game plan for John, as I would. But when you've got down a guy who knocks down 11 threes in a game (as Henry Pflaumer did in a game earlier this season), and you've got a guy who comes in tonight and knocks down back-to-back threes, you've got to start honoring that a little bit more. You've got to pick your poison. Do you want to guard the perimeter and leave John one-on-one? Or do you want to double John? You can't double everybody."
Thursday, Pflaumer scored 13 for the Lancers, with Tucker Bezon adding 11 and Dakota Dillon six.
It was Bezon's best game of the season, Zambito said.
Oakfield-Alabama scored 18 points in the first quarter, but was held to 22 the rest of the way.
Zambito said he told the team after the first quarter that they weren't playing the Lancer brand of basketball.
"Oakfield likes to get up in you," Zambito said. "They like to press you, but we're more of a half-court team. I think we kind of fell into the trap the first eight minutes of the game where we were trying to play up to their tempo. But we can't do that. We get ourselves into some big trouble when we start doing things like that."
Jon Harris scored seven for the Hornets and Jake Mandez had six. Trey Nadolinski scored five to go with seven rebounds and four assists.
It's been a long time since Elba's boys team has experienced this level of success, and the current Lancers' roster hasn't forgotten the bad times, which is what keeps them from getting too comfortable with their 12-0 start, Zambito said.
"All I have to do is show them the records from the past two years," Zambito said. "Less than 12 months ago, these kids weren't experiencing any success. It's a different feel. We really have a good thing going, great chemistry. There's a nice bond going on. They trust each other. They're hungry and they'll stay hungry. I've told them from day one, I don't care how many games we win, we're looking to win a title."
The Lancers are currently #1 in the GR, #1 in Section V Class D2 and ranked #5 in the state.
"We've always had potential," Hochmuth said. "Now we're showing it."