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Hectic Schedule Doesn’t Stop Redbank Valley’s Ortz From Returning to Help Surging Bulldog Hoop Team

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The morning comes early for Aiden Ortz.

Before the sun has even risen, Ortz has.

(Photo courtesy of Angie Rearick)

At 5:30 a.m., the Redbank Valley High School senior rolls out of bed to go to his job at Herkules USA, a welding fabrication shop in Ford City.

By early afternoon, he is in class at Redbank, cramming a full day’s worth of school into just a few hours.

Then it’s practice — football or basketball or track and field.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

By the time Ortz returns home, the sun has fallen. But not Ortz. There’s homework to do before calling it a night and getting some much-needed sleep to do it all over again the next day.

“I’m used to it now,” Ortz said. “When I first started, during football season, it was pretty rough. I go in to work in the morning and then go through school and then right after I went to football practice. But now it’s basketball season, our practices are 7 to 9, so I get a little break.”

Ortz didn’t plan on playing basketball this winter for a number of reasons.

His hectic schedule, sure. But also the wear and tear that three sports played on his body last year as a junior.

“I did three sports in a row and at the end, during the summer, my body was just drained,” Ortz said.

Ortz was away from the team during preseason.

That didn’t last long.

He felt the draw to play basketball again. He also had a fair share of his teammates reaching out to talk him into coming back.

Finally, he could no longer stay away. He returned, missing three games.

“This is my senior year and I won’t even get to do basketball again,” Ortz said. “They weren’t doing so well and some of my teammates started texting me and they kind of convinced me to play. I’m happy I came back. I missed it.”

Ortz has made a difference as he has rounded again into basketball form.

Rebbank Valley started the season poorly at 2-8. But the Bulldogs have bounced back in a big way, winning five in a row.

“It took me longer to get my shot back,” Ortz said. “And, to be honest, I was still kind of in football mode. I realized I had to calm down a little bit. But I think I’m getting back into it.”

Ortz, a forward, does the dirty work for the Bulldogs — getting rebounds, playing solid defense, diving for loose balls and contributing a few baskets along the way.

He has helped Redbank get back on track. So has some shuffling of personnel and a change in style.

“We’re starting to play more as a team,” Ortz said. “I think we’re figuring things out. I think we can keep going on a run.”

Ortz has figured a lot of things out already in his athletic career.

On the football field, he was a feared wide receiver with blazing speed, catching a team-leading 52 passes for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns.

In track and field, Ortz qualified for the PIAA championships last spring in the long jump, his first season on the team and his first time doing the event. He set a school record with a leap of 21 feet. 11¼ inches, winning the District 9 title in the process.

Ortz came painfully close to leaving Shippensburg and the state track meet with a medal around his neck, making the finals, but finishing ninth.

He has big goals for himself this season in the long jump.

“I’m pretty excited for track because I want to go back to states,” Ortz said. “I want to place there. I was a foot of something away from placing last year. It as pretty disappointing. I’m really motivated. I worked hard last year and I’m gonna work even harder this year to do it for myself, not anyone else.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.