O’Connor invests in BP basketball
If the Bethel Park boys’ basketball team were a company, Ben O’Connor recommends investing in his product.
“We’re doing better than the stock market,” said O’Connor who has watched his teams steadily improve from 4-17 his first year as head coach during the 2009-10 season to 18-7 this winter. “We’re worth the investment. We have tough kids. One through 25 knows what it takes to be successful.”
Despite a 71-64 loss to New Castle in the opening round of the PIAA Quad-A playoffs, the Hawks displayed that fortitude that breeds success, now and long into the future.
While they graduate seven seniors – Josh Krafczynski, Jake Murphy, Cass Wisniewski, R.J. Pfeuffer, Ryan Sosnak, Quentin Keibler, Sean Varley – the Hawks return a nucleus of players for the 2014-15 campaign, including Joe Mascaro. The junior exploded for 38 points against the Canes, who have not lost to a WPIAL team in three years and whose only other close lose was to Hampton, 55-49, in the Quad-A final.
“Pound for pound he is one of the top players in the WPIAL,” said O’Connor.
Pound for pound, the Hawks had the biggest hearts. They surprised fans at Chartiers Valley when they jumped ahead of New Castle, 10-6, four minutes into the first frame. They continued to shock spectators as the maintained the lead, 23-21, halfway through the second stanza.
BP, however, did not survive an 11-2 run and trailed, 32-25, at intermission. Though New Castle’s advantage swelled to 20 points, the Hawks continued to peck away at the lead, never surrendering until the end.
“That’s New Castle,” said O’Connor of the late second-quarter spurt. “They had that surge there and we got into a funk the third quarter where I think we were physically and mentally exhausted.
“New Castle is a good basketball team,” O’Connor continued. “I’m not sure what more could have been done in terms of mental and physical preparation. We were ready.
“We competed. That’s what I love about my team. They compete until the buzzer goes off. That’s a tribute to my guys. They’re a group that plays 32 minutes.”
While guys like Krafczynski, who will play at Waynesburg or La Roche, Wisniewski, who has a career at Penn State-New Kensington, Murphy, who will attend the United State Merchant Marine Academy, Varley, who will major in engineering at Pitt, Sosnak, who will play football at New Hampshire, Pfeuffer, who will football at John Carroll or Case-Western, and Keibler, who will play soccer at Eastern, competed in their last game for the Black and Orange, the remaining Hawks should have plenty of games to play next winter.
In addition to Mascaro, Anthony Bomar, a junior guard, as well as sophomores Levi Metheny and Jake Dixon, a 6-5 center, are back next season. All three started against the Canes. Dixon scored eight points against New Castle while Bomar supplied six tallies. Krafczynski finished with seven markers.
Dan Breit, a 6-4 forward, and Sam Volpatti, a guard, are juniors. They saw plenty of action throughout the season, which saw the Hawks finish runner-up to Upper St. Clair in Section 4 and qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.
“We are going to miss the seniors,” admitted O’Connor, “but yes, the future is bright. The seniors helped us reach uncharted waters. It’s been a while since we’ve been playing for something in March. I’m not sure any other team would have given New Castle the game we did.”
The Hawks battled the Canes because of players like Sosnak. He came out this season for basketball after focusing on football. “He made guys like Jake (Dixon) and Danny (Breit) better,” said O’Connor. “He did his job. This group, since they have been in middle school, has made amazing progress.”
With players like Tyler Barnot, Chance Wright, John Scarsella, Josh Duda, Brandon Thorsen and Chris Papalia as well as a successful junior varsity club that posted over 16 wins, the Hawks are expected to progress.
“We have a strong nucleus coming back. They understand what it takes,” O’Connor said. “We have to be excited and happy about our future.”