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The Cedar Beach Showcase boys basketball tournament games are played on the Whitehall-Coplay School District campus. One of the gyms used is at Zephyr Elementary School, where Emmaus and new head coach Jerald Brown played their first tournament game on Thursday.

At 6'10″, the Green Hornets' new basketball coach would stand out in any gym, especially one normally used for young children, so it was easy to spot the former Texas A&M coach and 1996 Texas State Mr. Basketball.

Brown and his Green Hornets shone on Thursday night in a 42-30 win over Dieruff.

It was Brown's first tournament game as coach and he was pleased with what he saw.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but in the short time I've had them they've improved dramatically. So I'm happy with the young men. We've challenged them and they've risen to the challenge.”

Brown replaced Steve Yoder, who led the Emmaus program for 16 seasons and compiled a 238-161 record. Yoder resigned in March after the Green Hornets were eliminated in the first round of the state tournament.

The hiring of Brown, who has a stellar basketball resume and served as a college counselor at the school last year, was one of the biggest headlines of the offseason. Many of the players know him and have adopted his coaching style, and everyone is getting to know each other better over the summer.

“It helped that I've been in school and they know me and what I expect from them academically, as far as my demeanor and my energy,” Brown said. “We've already built relationships and I'm so thankful that the guys have embraced me and that they're excited and enthusiastic about what we're doing and you can see the energy they bring to practice every day. They work hard and get in the weight room regularly. That's going to make a huge difference for us.”

Brown describes his style as uptempo with pressure defense.

“I want to create chaos on defense, man-to-man,” he said. “I want you to feel the full pressure.”

Jack Csensits, the team's leading returning scorer, led Emmaus with 12 points against Dieruff.

“We're definitely coming together as a team,” said Csensits, who averaged 5.6 points per game last season. “It's slow going, but it's definitely coming along. It's been a big learning curve for us, especially with a lot of new players coming in. Everything in general has been a big change. It's totally different than last year.”

Csensits said it's always fun to participate in tournaments like this weekend's and that he's looking forward to taking on a more leadership role following the graduation of top players like Will Barber, Jametric Harris and Teague McCourt.

“I have big shoes to fill,” he said.

He has no doubt that Brown is the right man to lead the program.

“I love him,” Csensits said. “I really think he's a good coach and I like his passion. It's a new voice and we're getting used to it and it's going to be great.”

Brown has been involved in basketball at various levels and first came to the area through his time as a professional basketball player for the late Darryl Dawkins and the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs. His other basketball experience includes serving as owner and head coach of the Texas Elite AAU program, head coach at Providence Classical School, assistant coach in the women's program at St. Thomas University, JV assistant coach in the Allentown School District, and coaching the Easton girls for one year.

He then took a break from the sport to focus on his family and a few other things, becoming the director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the Lehigh Valley.

He has two children in the East Penn School District and likes the tight-knit Emmaus community. He has seen the big crowds at football games and in the Green Hornets' small, 768-seat gym.

“Even though I've been away from the game for a while, I've always had a burning desire to get back into coaching,” he said. “This opportunity came up and I applied and thank God for giving me this opportunity at this stage in my life. I'm so excited to be part of the high school community, especially at Emmaus. I'm excited to build the Hornets nest and raise the energy of the kids and the crowd.”

“In a big city, you don't compete with professional teams,” he added. “Friday night football is the thing here, and two nights a week we have high school basketball. I love our enthusiastic crowd and can't wait to get started in the fall.”

Liberty takes the path of 22 to win

Both Jake Pukszyn and Jahsi Cole scored 22 points to lead Liberty to a 56-49 victory over Phillipsburg in the tournament's opening game.

The team played without star player Blake Hargrove, who is considering a transfer to another school in New Jersey. Hargrove said he is “on the fence” about transferring to the Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey, but has not made a final decision. He did not play, but attended the Liberty game as a fan and spoke with his teammates after the game.

If Hargrove leaves, he would follow the same path as former teammate Dywane Chess, who had two strong seasons at Liberty and then left last September before his penultimate year to attend St. George's School, a private school in Rhode Island. Chess also reclassified and will graduate in 2026.

One of The Morning Call's Rookies of the Year as a freshman in 2022-23 and an All-Area selection and second-team All-League as a sophomore, Hargrove averaged 15.6 points per game, which was the most on the team, made 60 3-pointers and shot 78.3 percent from the free throw line as Liberty went 20-8 and reached the District 11 6A final for the second straight year.

In the first month of the offseason, he was one of the summer league's top scorers.

Liberty coach Nigel Long is on vacation this weekend and is unavailable for comment. Assistant coach Luis Ortiz coached the team against Phillipsburg and will coach the Hurricanes throughout the tournament. He declined to comment on Hargrove's status.

“I don't know what's going on with this situation, and my job is to coach the kids here,” Ortiz said. “I know we'd love to have him here. He's a great kid and Liberty was his home. Hopefully it works out.”

Pukszyn agreed with Ortiz.

“We still have a lot of talent,” Pukszyn said. “Obviously we'd love to have him. He's a very talented player. But I think we still have a winning spirit and just want to keep winning. We play at Whitehall on Saturday at 9 a.m. and then we're going to Philly to play on PhillyLive! and our JVs will play. Hopefully they can keep it up and we can win this thing.”

Results from Thursday

Department for Small Schools

Salisbury 53, Panther Valley 32 … Drew Petrie 12.

Department for Large Schools

CCHS 67, Del Val 47…Lucas Mushrush 20.

Bangor 49, Quakertown 39 … Jason Crucioni 15.

Hazleton 60, Easton 47 … Luis Guzman 17.

Nazareth 68, Southern Lehigh 20 … Gavin Kerschner 16.

Pocono Mt. East 53, Notre Dame-Green Pond 37 … Stephen Bethea 14.

Liberty 56, Phillipsburg 49 … Jake Pukszyn and Jahsi Cole 22.

Emmaus 42, Dieruff 30 … Jack Csensits 16.

JV Department

Easton No. 2 60, Panther Valley 41 … Autel Elias 15.

Schedule for Friday

Games at 6:00 p.m.: Northampton vs. Daniel Boone, Whitehall HS Main Gym; Wilson vs. Fleetwood JVs at Zephyr Elementary School Gym; ACCHS vs. Emmaus JVs, WHS Middle School; Liberty vs. Holy Cross JVs, Whitehall HS Additional Gym.

Games at 7:00 p.m.: Milton Hershey vs. Warren Hills, Whitehall HS Main Gym; ACCHS vs. Southern Lehigh JVs, WHS Middle School; Easton vs. Freedom JVs, Zephyr Elementary School;

Games at 8 p.m.: Berks Catholic vs. Pocono Mountain East, Whitehall Middle School; Freedom vs. Northampton/winner Daniel Boone, Whitehall HS main gym; Nazareth vs. Wilson West Lawn JVs, .

Early schedule for Saturday

Games at 9am: Whitehall vs Liberty.

Games at 10 a.m.: Holy Cross vs. Salisbury; Lehighton vs. Milton, winner of Hershey/Warren Hills.

Games at 11 a.m.: Parkland vs. ACCHS; Emmaus vs. Berks Catholic/Pocono Mountain East winner.

Games at 2 p.m.: Winner of Parkland/ACCHS vs. Hazleton; Bangor vs. Freedom/Daniel Boone or Northampton.

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