Seton-La Salle boys lead Almanac Elite Eleven list
The only difference between the Hickory Hoosiers of Hollywood fame and the Seton-La Salle boys’ basketball team this season is the final shot did not fall for the Rebels. While they dropped a 61-59 decision to a taller, more athletic Constitution team in the 2014 Pennsylvania state championships, the Rebels captured the imagination of its loyal following as they dominated the hoop scene this winter. They carved out a lifetime of memories by posting the most victories in school history for one campaign and claiming section and district titles en route to a 29-2 record.
“Our boys put forth an effort that is normally only imagined,” explained SLS skipper Mark “Knobby” Walsh. “We played an inspired game (against Constitution). To an average fan, it appeared to be a lopsided game if one looked at both teams.
“For our team to be able to battle back and have a chance to win (with a very good shooter taking the shot) at the buzzer says it all about our players and team.
“In life, besides the joy of becoming a parent (if one is fortunate enough to be one someday) the excitement of the ball in the air directly in front of our team bench with the state title game on the line is something that is truly extraordinary. This is something they will remember for the rest of their lives. It was a great group of special guys.”
Not surprisingly, several of those special guys headline this year’s edition of The Almanac’s Elite Eleven. The unit, along with honorable mention and players to watch, was se lected by a survey of area coaches as well as through observation of games played throughout the 2013-14 season. Final statistics were also taken into consideration when picking the all-star squad.
While Matthew McConnell from Chartiers Valley headlines the list as Most Valuable Player (see related article), Seton-La Salle placed three players on the all-star roster and claimed Coach of the Year laurels with Walsh at the helm.
Three years ago, Mark Walsh began the rebuilding process at SLS. The 46-year-old Whitehall resident turned around the once-proud program that had fallen on hard times, under .500 for all but one of the eight seasons before his arrival, and 6-14 and 4-18, respectively, in 2010 and 2011.
Walsh, who coached at Bishop Canevin from 1998-2004 and served as an assistant coach at Baldwin and Bethel Park for seven seasons, fashioned SLS’s reformation around a talented trio.
With Dale Clancy at the point position, the Rebels reached record heights. A gym rat, the 5-10 senior spent long hours on school days at SLS, arriving in the A.M. and staying late after practice to hone his considerable skills.
A three-year starter, Clancy surpassed 1,000 career points this season. He averaged 15 points and six to seven assists per game. In addition to being rated at the top player in Section 4-AA, he earned a spot on the rosters for the Roundball Classic played at Geneva College and the Hoops For Cure All-Star game set for April 25 at Chartiers Valley.
“There is no doubt in my mind if you take a poll of the WPIAL that the name Dale Clancy comes up as a top player,” said Walsh. “In all my years of coaching, I have never seen a player with his burst of speed and ability to get to the basket.”
Clancy also possessed a modicum of unselfishness in his play as demonstrated in the waning minutes of the state final at the Giant Center in Hershey.
He had a chance to take the ball and shot himself with time running down but he passed to an open teammate. “That’s the ultimate team sacrifice. To pass up the potential state final game-tying or game-winning shot,” said Walsh.
Clancy dished off to Levi Masua. He had tied the game, 59-59, from the same exact spot only 63 seconds earlier. Masua finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds in the state final. The performance was reminiscent of his effort in the WPIAL championship contest. In that 52-51 triumph against Greensburg Central Catholic, the 6-6 forward blocked seven shots, pulled down 10 rebounds and supplied six points.
Masua averaged 12 points and eight rebounds during the regular season. However, during the playoffs, he managed 15 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.
“I will never be able to explain what Levi showed in the playoffs,” said Walsh. “He was like a man possessed. Levi was a major contributing factor to our team winning the WPIAL and reaching the state final.
“Levi is fearless,” Walsh continued of his courage to take the last-second shot in the PIAA championships. “He also has a maturity level well beyond his years. The composure he showed and the statements he made when interviewed after the state finals was something for the ages.”
SLS’s other twin tower, Malik White also had a season for the ages. A standout in two sports, he also competed in football, White was a double-digit scorer. The 6-4 center also averaged eight rebounds per game. A senior, White was relied upon to guard the opponent’s best post player.
“Malik impacted the post game so much,” Walsh said. “It was indescribable. He sacrificed scoring for the betterment of the team. He is a great young man who will be surely missed.”
Walsh will also miss his three other seniors: Dom DelGreco, Tom Rizza and David Boehme, who is an outstanding pitcher for the baseball team.
“From the players, parents, administration and teachers, we have had the best group. So supportive,” said Walsh. “So we celebrated because most people only dream of the season we had. I don’t think anybody could have scripted it any better. We had so much fun enjoying the ride. If I had to do the whole thing over again I would. As a coaching staff, we love these players and wish we could coach them forever.”
Most coaches feel that way but Ben O’Connor and Joe David have the luxury of guiding Joey Mascaro and Jonny David for another season. The junior guards round out The Almanac’s first five. Both also earned first-team Section 4-AAAA all-star acclaim.
A 5-9 guard, Mascaro averaged 18 points, 4.5 assists and two steals for Bethel Park, which finished 18-7 overall and advanced to the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs, losing both times to eventual state champion, New Castle. Mascaro had perhaps his finest performance when he erupted for 38 points in the Hawks’ season-finale, a 71-64 loss to the Hurricanes.
“Pound for pound, he is one of the top players in the WPIAL,” said O’Connor. “Joe makes great decisions on and off the court,” he added of the 4.4 honors student. “He is as humble as a young man can be but also as talented as a high school student athlete can be.”
Meanwhile, David is a talented perimeter player. He led the Blue Devils to a third-place finish behind Upper St. Clair and BP in the section and a post-season berth, where they dropped a 74-56 decision to Hempfield to finish 11-12 overall.
The 6-2 guard averaged a team-high 18 points per game. He also dished up three assists and pulled down four rebounds for Lebo. One of his finest performances of the season came at the start of the 2013-14 campaign. David christened the new Mt. Lebanon gym with record 42-point performance in a 66-35 win over Johnstown.
Of that effort, his father, Joe, who also serves as Lebo’s boys’ floor boss, said it was a great night but noted that expectations are high for the future. “As a father, I am proud of the work ethic he has and in him as a young man,” Coach David said. “Jonny will be asked to do a lot for us.”
C-M duo star
Canon-McMillan will continue to ask a lot of Sam Bohn and Britton Beachy.
A junior, Bohn spearheads The Almanac’s second team stars. The 5-10 guard garnered all-section honors and guided Canon-McMillan to a thrilling season. Despite their 11-11 overall mark, the Big Macs led the league at one point but faltered and finished fifth in Section 4-AAAA and out of the playoff hunt.
Bohn averaged 13.6 points per game. He also led the Big Macs in rebounds with 3.8 and in assists with 4.3 an outing.
“Sam’s our glue guy. The straw that stirs the drink,” said C-M floor Rick Bell. “He is so heady. A smart, smart player,” said Bell. “He takes care of the ball. He’s a coach out there on the floor. I love him to death. I’m glad he is on my team for another season.”
Meanwhile, Beachy will be on the squad for some time. He’s a freshman. Beachy garnered Almanac Rookie of the Year status. He averaged 10.2 points per game. Plus, he managed three rebounds as well as nearly two assists an outing.
Tuite assists CV
Chartiers Valley nearly had a championship season but Central Valley edged the Colts, 70-69, in double overtime of the WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
Jerrad Tuite did all he could and more for the Colts in that defeat as well as throughout a 25-3 season. The senior point guard fired in 27 points in the district final and connected on 18 of 22 free throws, most of them down the stretch in the overtime thriller. He knocked down 11 of 12 free throws and finished with 21 points in CV’s first-round PIAA playoff win against Erie Strong Vincent.
“Jerrad’s a great foul shooter. He’s done that all season for us,” McConnell said. “He’s phenomenal. He has a lot of confidence. We want to get the ball in his hands.”
Tuite ranked second on the team in scoring. He pumped in 468 points, averaging 16.7 per game. He also ranked second in assists with 98 and in steals with 60. He led the team with 75 blocked shots.
Top two, too
J.C. Brush from Peters Township and J.J. Conn of Upper St. Clair complete The Almanac Elite Eleven list. Opponents on the court, both garnered all-section honors.
A 5-10 guard, Brush averaged 14.8 points per game for the Indians, who finished 8-6 in Section 4-AAAA and 11-12 overall. The senior also pulled down 3.2 rebounds.
“He really carried us on offense and is a perfect example to people who think you have to be a great player when you’re a freshman or sophomore and get frustrated when you’re not,” explained Gary Goga, who was named Section 4 Coach of the Year. “J.C. is a program player who stuck it out and turned himself into an all-section performer. Very proud of him for that,” Goga added.
A 6-4 senior forward, Conn repeats as an Almanac all-star. He has excelled on three straight section championship clubs. This year, USC finished 12-2 in Section 4 and 16-7 overall after a playoff loss to Gateway.
Conn, who will play football at Lafayette University, led the Panthers in scoring with a 15.1-point average. He also grabbed five rebounds a game.
“J.J. has always been a great kid and big contributor to the program,” said USC floor boss Dan Holzer. “He is so dedicated and so competitive. He’s a kid who has worked hard to achieve success. He’s smart and understands what it take to get to the highest level.”
Players earning honorable mention status on The Almanac all-star list include:
• Josh Krafcynzski, RJ Pfeuffer and Anthony Bomar from Bethel Park. A senior sharpshooter, Krafcynzski averaged 11 points and four rebounds for the Hawks. A senior, Pfeuffer provided nine points and four rebounds per game. A junior guard, Bomar managed seven points and dished up four assists a game.
• Alex Hammers from Canon-McMillan. He averaged 11.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Big Macs.
• Kodie Hanley, Alec Ferrari, Miles Williamson of Chartiers-Houston. Hanldey led the Bucs in scoring with a 14-point average. He also grabbed 6.6 rebounds per game A junior, Ferrari averaged 12.6 points. A senior, Williamson managed 12.3 points per game.
• Hayden Herzer and Joe Antonucci from Chartiers Valley. While Herzer provided 5.2 points per game, Antonucci pitched in 6.5 tallies. Herzer finished with 64 assists, 48 steals and 65 rebounds. Antonucci managed 33 assists, 32 steals. He ranked No. 2 in rebounds with 165.
• Eddie Jenkins and Patrick Ehland from Mt. Lebanon. While Jenkins averaged seven points per game, Ehland pulled down five rebounds while providing seven points an outing.
Ryan Norkus from Seton-La Salle. The junior averaged double digits rebounds and between 8 to 9 points per game. He scored 12 points in the state final.
Jake Relihan, Justin Watson, Nick McKee and Brett Brumbaugh from South Fayette. All but Watson are juniors.
A senior, Watson led the team with an 11.8 scoring average. He managed 7.5 rebounds a game. Brumbaugh led in rebounds with 7.6 an outing. He supplied nine points a game. For both those were good numbers considering they missed much of the first half of the season because their football season extended well into December because of the Lions’ state championship run.
McKee tied Watson in the assist department with 2.8 per game. He averaged 11.4 points and 2.1 steals a game. Relihan managed 10.6 points per game.
• Conor Gallagher from Upper St. Clair. This senior point guard averaged 1.07 points and four assists a game.
Players to watch
Among the players to watch are:
• Levi Metheny and Jake Dixon. These two sophomores started and played a lot for Bethel Park. “They are tough kids,” said Hawks’ head coach Ben O’Connor. They both excel at other sports as Metheny is the starting quarterback of the football team and Dixon is one of the top volleyball players in the WPIAL.
• Eddie Flohr from Chartiers Valley. The Colts’ sixth man, Flohr averaged 8.7 points per game. He dished up 59 assists and had 37 steals along with 39 rebounds.
• Mark Lamendola from Mt. Lebanon. He is a 5-9 freshman guard.
• Andrew Wheeler from Upper St. Clair. He averaged five points and buried 28 three-pointers.