Czekaj: Men’s varsity on the right track

Determination is definitely the mantra for Rappahannock High School’s men’s varsity basketball team. The team’s win-loss record of 2 and 10 does not accurately reflect the attitude of the hard-working players.

Coach Scott Stephens prepares to enter the intense timeout huddle with Head Coach Bob Czekaj during a RCHS game against Wakefield. Photo by Bryn Sonnett.

Head varsity coach Bob Czekaj is proud of his Panthers: “We have a very young team. Even the seniors are inexperienced.” The three upperclassmen, Huck Pace, Chris Garcia and Conner Foley, are in their first or second year of varsity play. The majority of experience actually comes through two veteran sophomore players, Greg Czekaj and Josh Frye.

Coach said, “We are doing much better. We practice every day on individual skills. The players always have a positive attitude. They are a determined bunch.”

In Coach Czekaj’s optimistic view, “Basketball, with a young team, is a progression. Early in the season, no one wants to take shots for fear of missing. Then, they take shots and make some. Confidence builds. Nourishing that mindset is critical.”

Assisting with the building of the men’s team is Coach Scott Stephens, head JV and assistant varsity. His addition to the coaching staff is a welcome one, especially in the eyes of Coach Czekaj, “Since I started coaching in 1985 … well, Scott’s one of the best, if not the best I’ve seen.”

Asst. Coach Stephens is definitely enthusiastic about the Panthers’ progress: “They are starting to do on the court what we have taught them in practice. The level of discomfort against man defense has dropped. If they keep doing that, we can only get better.”
Rapp Varsity has the unique position of playing at least one eighth grader in every game. Coach Stephens said, “There are lots of contributions from JV players on the upper level. The speed of the games, the intensity, pressures and opponents’ defenses are vastly different from what some players have been used to at the lower levels of play. But, over the last couple of games, we have seen consistent improvements.”

Coach Stevens added: “Our team has determination. They haven’t rolled over. They haven’t quit.” To illustrate, Coach Czekaj reflected on their recent game against Warren County: “They were up on us by 21 in the middle of the third quarter. Our team played hard to reduce the lead to only 10 points, forcing Warren’s coach to call a timeout, put his starters back in and press us.”

For the rest of the season, the coaches agree on the focus. Coach Stephens said, “We will take what we learn daily in practice and bring it to the court. That’s huge. We need to involve our post players, our big guys, more so we can hit from the outside.” In the same vein, Coach Czekaj added, “We will bring those five individuals, with their integrated skills from practice, into a strong team offense and defense.”

Determination and growing confidence highlight Coach Czekaj’s parting comments about the team: “People look at the record and say we’ve only won two games. Yes, everyone wants to win. To me, seeing young men improving in each game … well, the scoreboard becomes less relevant. We see them gaining confidence in their skills. They won’t give up.”

The Panthers’ next game is home on Friday, February 5, at 7:30 against East Hardy High School.

JP basketball: everybody wins
Both Junior Panther basketball teams cruised to easy wins over Bethel Christian School at home Tuesday evening.

Going first the girls jumped out to a 12-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Coaches Amy Gubler and Jimmy Swindler were able to begin putting subs in early. Rapp extended its lead to 19-3 by half time. Bethel had a pretty good third quarter and the teams went into the final quarter with Rapp enjoying a 21-10 lead. The final score was 25-17 in Rapp’s favor. Jane Purnell was high scorer and also able to provide solid leadership when the subs were in. She had 13 points and Clare Gubler added 8.

The boys had a 11-4 lead at he end of the first quarter, and extended ti to 24-4 by half time. Again the subs got a lot of playing time. In the third quarter Rapp added to the margin and led 33-6 going into the final quarter. The final score was 42-6 for Rapp. The points were spread widely. Bradlee Frye had 13, Evan Hitt had 7, Gary Jenkins had 6, and R.T. Leake had 5. All the bench players got into the game and some were able to add to the score.

The Junior Panther basketball teams were to face Fresta Valley Christian School at home yesterday afternoon, after press time.
— Sharon Kilpatrick

JP wrestlers compete in Culpeper
The JP team went to Culpeper and wrestled against Locust Grove and Culpeper Middle this week. The Panthers as a team lost both matches but several wrestlers did well individually. In the first match against Locust Grove, Dylan Hitt gave the team their first points of the night with a 7-4 decision over Schlagel. Nich Hipple followed with a 6-2 decision over Browning. Amrit Tamang had a 6-0 decision, followed immediately by the first pin points of the night by David Smoot. At that point the Junior Panthers were down by 36-15. Tanyon Lee pinned his man with 20 seconds left to go in the third round. But then the Panthers lost steam and tell to Locust Grove by a score of 60-21.

The Panthers then wrestled Culpeper. Many of the Culpeper players had been with several of the Rappahannock players over the weekend at States. The teams were friendly and the competition was good. Andrew Kopjanski gave Rappahanock a 3-0 start with a 7-2 decision. Laylin Brown held her own for two periods with a state champion until he pinned her with 14 seconds to go in the second round. In the best match of the night according to the Culpeper coach, Dylan Hitt lost a decision by 8-2. Nich Hipple gave Rapp their first pin points in this match. Amrit Tamang won his match 8-3, for the Panthers final victory of the match.

Rappahannock fell to CMS, 63-12. The CMS team has a ton of wrestlers that wrestle Team Cobra and Beltway. The Rapp JP team has done well this season against more experienced wrestlers. Next year should show more participation and much improvement.

The final JP Wrestling match of the season is at home today against William Monroe and Signal Knob; matches start at 5 p.m.
— Amy Hitt