In high school basketball being dubbed “all-around” means more than lighting up the scoreboard. A truly versatile player not only shoots well but also defends aggressively and passes selflessly. Council Rock South’s Mike Stewart possesses all these vital criteria.
Mike’s very reason for loving basketball speaks of his total team attitude. “It’s a very fun game especially with my teammates. If you have a really good team and can play well together it’s a lot of fun. That’s what we have this year. It’s really a close-knit group.”
Presently the Golden Hawks sport a 5-2 Suburban One League National Conference record, placing them second to only the undefeated Bensalem Owls. Their only losses came in close games to Bensalem and William Tennant.
Mike attributes the Golden Hawks rise in the SOL ranks to both balance and desire. “Honestly we are very hard working. For some guys this is their first time on varsity. They are really stepping up. We all work hard in practice where we are always battling with each other. That pays off in the games.”
Primarily a guard-oriented squad Mike feels the few big men on the team have contributed, especially on the defensive end. “We have a pretty good balance because we have some ‘bigs’ who like to play defense. We’re not that big this year. The ‘bigs’ that do play are very good at what they do.”
Lacking several towering infernos means everyone needs to contribute in the rebounding phase of the game. “We all have to box out. The guards know that too. We have to have group rebounding and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Here, Mike’s versatility really helps the team effort. “I am listed as a shooting guard. I have guard skills but I do everything for the team, rebounding and defense. Because we need rebounding, all our guards always go toward the boards. That’s what our coach harps on. I’m also a secondary ball handler to Jack (Rebholz) whenever he needs it. We run a screen for me and Jack. Coming off of that we pass to any open shooters”
The Golden Hawks offensive schemes fit their court personalities quite well. “We run a flex screening offense or if we’re not doing that, we’re running an off-ball screen so we can get open looks. We’re trying to get as much movement as possible.”
South is equally tenacious on the defensive side of the court. “Obviously we pride ourselves on defense. We have ten different ones we use. We’ll use a full-court man. If we’re trying to slow down the game, we’ll go to a 1-3-1 with a little bit of pressure at the top to make their guards work.”
The overall schemes obviously work as the Golden Hawks already have more conference victories than in the past two seasons. Particularly memorable was their 59-55 conquest of Pennsbury on the Falcon’s home court. “A key game was when we won at Pennsbury. It was the first time we ever did that. It was a great league win and it was on the road. Winning at Pennsbury is tough and we did just that. It was awesome.”
Equally impressive was the Golden Hawks recent come-from-behind victory over their archrival, Council Rock North. Mike recognized the meaning of this contest. “It’s always an important game. We’re not always evenly matched but it’s always going to be a close game because of the environment. There’s always a lot of people there.”
North utilized their homecourt advantage to jump out to a 24-17 halftime lead. Connor Rushing and Bernie Parent carried most of the Indian’s scoring load. The second half was a different story. Eight points by Mike in the third quarter and ten by Jack Rebholz in the final frame fueled the Golden Hawks come-back 46-40 victory.
Mike recognized that the halftime adjustments helped. “Defensively we went to a 2-3 zone and moved it up and put the pressure near half court. They started turning the ball over and that led to some fast breaks for us which really turned the game around.”
The big win moved the Golden Hawks closer to their season goals. “We wrote down three goals for our team. They were to make playoffs, have a winning league record, and get a home playoff game. Right now, we’re on pace to do that.”
With versatile players such as Mike leading the charge the Golden Hawks have already proven a force in the highly competitive SOL National Division. The second half of the schedule should indicate just how far they have progressed.