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Naugle's improvement leads to magical season for Seals

Apr. 4—Not that local basketball fans were aware of it, but there was a preview of the 2023-2024 season during the first 11 days of January 2023.

Selinsgrove junior Ries Naugle averaged 21 points on 75 percent shooting in a four-game stretch to open 2023.

That proved to be a harbinger of the Naugle's senior season.

Naugle was the key cog for a Selinsgrove team that took a major step forward, producing the school's best boys basketball season in more than 20 years — finishing 9-1 in league play, winning the District 4/6 Class 5A championship and a home state playoff game, before falling to eventual state finalist Franklin Regional in the second round of the state playoffs.

Named the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I player of the year, Naugle is also the Daily Item boys basketball player of the year.

And what a year it was for the senior, he nearly doubled his scoring average from 10.8 points to an area-high 21.8 points per game as a senior.

Naugle set his career-high in January with 37 points against Jersey Shore, but it was the game afterward that might have been key to Selinsgrove's season. In a key game against rival Shikellamy, Naugle was held scoreless and a bit a flummoxed by the Braves' decision to play a zone.

However, when Naugle got aggressive and had a 12-point fourth quarter to help the Seals to a victory over Shikellamy.

"My coach told me to be extra aggressive," Naugle said after that game. "They really extended their zone, and we weren't hitting our shots, so I had to attack it."

That attitude carried over the rest of the season — the Seals would lose three games the rest of the season to teams that won district championships and nonleague opponent West York. Naugle and the Seals reached a different level after that game. They would beat Shamokin to split the Division I title, and win the district title in a two-point nail biter against Hollidaysburg, and a raucous state first-round game with Muhlenberg.

"It was just a massive couple of wins for the program, not only for this year," Selinsgrove coach Justin Keiser said. "(Those wins) are big for next year and for future years."

"It was a super special. It's something I worked for my entire life for it and we came up sort the last couple of years," Naugle said. "It was the most important year of my life, and I just had to lock in."

However, it wasn't just offense for the that brought Naugle and the Seals a district championship and a state playoff victory. Selinsgrove's 2-3 zone defense proved to be a problem all season. Naugle, and freshman Xaivier Jackson at the top of the zone proved to be a problem all season for teams.

A big help in Naugle double his scoring was some of the easy baskets, he and Jackson were able to produce with steals at the top of the zone. Nothing brought the crowd to its feet at the Seals' game this season, than a Naugle dunk, and a lot of those came on steals — though no one that was in the gym for the district semifinal will forget his drive down the teeth of the Wildcats' defense with a two-handed slam to salt the game way in the fourth quarter.

"Our length and basketball IQ really caused a lot of problems for teams," Naugle said.