Balanced offense carries Pine-Richland boys on playoff run

Monday, March 15, 2021 | 1:02 PM

During Pine-Richland’s boys basketball playoff run, multiple players saw their name with a large point total beside it on the stat sheet.

That’s by design.

Rams coach Bob Petcash preaches sharing the ball and moving around to find the open shot. It’s his expectation for everyone that puts on a green and silver jersey to contribute, and they’ve done just that.

The sixth-seeded Rams won on the road twice and earned a trip to the Class 6A championship game against top-seeded Upper St. Clair on Friday, March 12.

Prior to the championship game, the Rams’ ability to work the basketball around and get an open look was on display in their 76-63 win at Fox Chapel in the semifinals.

In the second quarter, the Rams rode the hot hand of junior Andy Swartout, who came off the bench to connect on four 3-pointers. He scored 14 points in the frame to give the Rams a 40-31 halftime lead en route to ending the Foxes’ 18-game winning streak.

It was a quarter Swartout won’t soon forget.

“The closest thing I’ve had to that was the last game against Hempfield where I came off the bench and contributed, but it was more with foul shots,” Swartout said. “Coming off the bench and hitting a few 3s on the big stage was pretty awesome.”

Swartout finished with 18 points and had another big 3-pointer at the end of the third after Fox Chapel made a run to cut the lead to four points.

“Once Andy realized that if he plays in our system and doesn’t do what he wants to do, that he can be really good,” Petcash said. “He puts in a lot of time and effort. He’s a really good basketball and baseball player. That’s what I expect from our guys.

“Fox Chapel came in trying to take away our big guys, and other guys have to step up. That’s a formula for success. I’m proud of Andy and the grit and grind he’s put in. He really stepped up for us this game and last game.”

Joey Dudkowski had 22 points in the win over the Foxes, and Andrew Alexander had 13 points and eight assists.

In the 65-61 quarterfinal win at Hempfield, Luke Shanahan had 22 points, Dudkowski scored 18, and Swartout had 15. Shanahan also had 22 points in a 79-67 win over Peters Township in the first round.

“We share the ball,” Petcash said. “We can’t rely on one guy scoring. When we share the basketball, that’s how Andy Swartout gets open to knock down shots or we get the ball inside for Luke Shanahan to score. We have a lot more stuff going on than people realize. We’re very prepared offensively.”

Petcash had a plan in place from the first practice on to put his team in a position to be peaking come playoff time, and it came to fruition. He’s been pleased with how his team has bought into playing tough man-to-man defense and running his offensive system based on motion.

“We preach the compound effect,” Swartout said. “We keep working at it and working at it and eventually it will pay off. The first couple games, we started off slow. We would have one player score 30ish and the rest would be at like 10 points or less. Now we’re moving the ball and playing as a team with multiple guys in double figures. I still feel like we’re working towards our best basketball.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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