Palisades senior Bobby Snyder figured the transition would take some time, but he and his teammates quickly have adapted to the new environment.
Under new head coach Phil Ham, Palisades has scrapped its half-court game in favor of an up-tempo and grinding style that already has produced favorable results. With their recent 66-34 victory over Plumstead Christian School, the Pirates had an overall 5-4 mark to begin the week.
It has been a steady progression since they entered the ultra-competitive Allentown Summer League.
“It was a big difference for all of us at the beginning,” said the 6-foot-2 Snyder, who has been among the team’s leading scorers from his center position. “But we made the change and saw a big difference. When you play this way, you can get the highs and lows.
“We really like our chemistry and this style helped us. We’re not the tallest team, but we can push the ball. I knew I had to go out and work hard in my final year and I like the direction in which we are headed.”
Ham, a Brooklyn native who had the team’s JV team last season and has been a fixture in AAU programs around the greater Lehigh Valley area, wanted his returning players to have a change of pace.
“There were some guys who needed to get some more time and we needed to play small ball to succeed,” said Ham. “These guys had the ability to run the court, and they realized it in a hurry.
“We have kids with some size, but we win by running and being physical as well. We’re getting the most out of our rotation.”
Along with Snyder, the Pirates have been paced by sophomore point guard Liam Carey and shooting guard junior Zach Duke, and junior forwards Caleb Johnson and Brandon Fox have been the team’s consistent starters. Senior Zach Shoemaker and junior Pennsbury transfer Brandon Moan have been effective as the first usually off the bench.
Carey, who primarily played JV last season, has played his role with the vigor and leadership that has sparked the offense.
“Carey is getting the job done and has been one of our leading scorers,” said Ham. “He really sees the floor well and is a general out there. He has a great feel for the game.
“Duke is back healthy and having a good year, and guys like Johnson and Fox are giving everything they have. Shoemaker has been able to do a number of things for us, and Moan looks like a real talent who can play guard or play up front.”
Carey envisions his team can continue to develop toward a run in the district playoffs. The Pirates are looking for their first district berth since the 2014-15 season.
“We are a very athletic team on the court,” said Carey. “We are starting to play better together as a team and it is making us a tougher team to beat. Our hard work has been paying off.
“The biggest adjustment for me has been getting closer to my teammates, and they are trusting me with the ball and helping me to create. Being a leader on the court definitely has been a big change for me.
“If we keep getting better, I believe we can get far and have a run at districts.”