A-K Valley high school basketball notebook: Teams prepare for meat of section schedules

Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 8:57 PM

The pre-Christmas portion of the WPIAL basketball season will wrap up this weekend, and teams will get a chance to do evaluations as they prepare for the meat of their schedules.

To this point, team schedules mainly involved nonsection opponents, with one or two section games thrown in, providing coaches valuable opportunities to learn about their teams.

“I think (it’s) just finding what makes us go, in terms of how we work with each other and really just establishing a good base of momentum taking us into the section,” Deer Lakes girls coach Dave Petruska said.

In the Alle-Kiski Valley, Petruska’s Lancers (5-0) stood as the only remaining undefeated girls team entering Thursday’s action, but their counterparts at Apollo-Ridge (4-1), Cheswick Christian (4-1), Fox Chapel (5-1), Freeport (4-1) and Knoch (4-1) also were off to strong starts.

Deer Lakes is navigating a new section after dropping to Class 3A.

“I don’t want to say it’s pretty much gone as I’ve expected. We’ve definitely seen some pretty tough competition through our successes,” Petruska said.

Riverview (3-1) has the fewest losses of any A-K Valley boys teams, but Deer Lakes, Leechburg and St. Joseph have a pair of section wins and sit atop their sections.

Teams off to a slower start can take comfort in having a long way to go. The Burrell boys started 1-10 two seasons ago and still made the playoffs, which is why Bucs coach Shawn Bennis remained optimistic even after a blowout loss to Shady Side Academy in their section opener.

“A lot of this is correctable,” said Bennis, whose team evened its section record at 1-1 with a win Tuesday over South Allegheny. “A lot of it we can fix in practice. There’s a learning curve that we have to speed up. We always improve as the season goes on.”

Taking charge

Cheswick Christian’s girls team is showcasing the value of sharing.

After dropping their season opener, the Chargers reeled off four consecutive victories mainly by spreading around their scoring.

The team’s two most recent victories highlighted that effort. Cheswick Christian (4-1, 1-0 Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference) beat Trinity Christian, 42-22, even as no Chargers reached double figures in scoring. Then, in a 47-4 rout of conference opponent Calvary Chapel, Desiree Hamilton scored 13 points, with the rest of the roster clustered around six points.

“That’s what we’re going for,” coach Clinton Blazevich said of the balanced effort. “If we’re all scoring, who are you going to stop?”

Long time coming

Tuesday served as a welcome occasion for a few Alle-Kiski Valley boys teams.

Apollo-Ridge and Kiski Area earned hard-fought section victories to end extended losing streaks.

A 64-61 overtime victory over Section 1-2A opponent Riverview gave Apollo-Ridge not just its first victory of the season but also its first since Jan. 9, ending the Vikings’ 14-game losing skid. The sophomore trio of Keighton Reese, Jake Fello and Klay Fitzroy combined for 59 of the team’s 64 points.

The Vikings followed that with another win the next night, edging St. Joseph, 45-42.

Kiski Area, which used a 12-0 second-half run to beat Section 3-5A opponent Plum, 54-49, earned its first section victory since Jan. 27, 2016, also snapping a 14-game drought.

Cheswick Christian (1-4, 1-0) also earned its first win of the season, 51-23 over SWCAC opponent Calvary Chapel.

Finishing Hutch

Kiski Area is finding a go-to scorer in freshman Kyrell Hutcherson.

The young guard scored in double figures in five of the Cavaliers’ first seven games, leading the team in scoring. He had a season-high 15 points in a nonsection loss to Norwin on Saturday and followed it with 13 points in the win over Plum.

“There’s a lot of promise there,” coach Will Saunders said.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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