Balanced scoring effort leading Leechburg boys down the stretch
Thursday, January 23, 2020 | 7:41 PM
The Leechburg boys basketball team has been experiencing a bit of success over the past few seasons, and it could be partly attributed to the contribution from a core group of players.
Seniors Jake Blumer and Connor McDermott, along with junior point guard Dylan Cook, have given the Blue Devils something to build around over the past few years.
They’ve been playing together since they were little kids and over the past three years, they have contributed to three straight WPIAL playoff appearances and helped earn Leechburg’s first WPIAL playoff win since 2011.
They also helped Leechburg make its first PIAA appearance since 2007. Now, they are looking to do something they have always dreamed of, taking their success one step further.
“Probably since, like, elementary school, we’ve always had dreams of going to WPIALs and winning,” McDermott said. “I mean, you never know what’s going to happen, but we’ve always had the idea that we could go far in the playoffs for a long time.”
As a group, Blumer, McDermott and Cook said they have always thought this year would be their best shot. Add players like sophomore Eli Rich and freshman Braylan Lovelace into the starting rotation and the Blue Devils are in prime position to take a big step.
“Eli is one of those new-era bigs who can stretch the floor, and then he rebounds too,” Cook said of adding Rich and Lovelace to the mix. “Then Braylan is fast and athletic, so he just adds another athlete to the court, which always helps us.”
So far this season, Leechburg (10-5, 6-3) has been a balanced scoring machine. In 11 of their 15 games, at least three players have scored in double digits, and in seven of those games, four have scored 10 points or more.
All five starters have also scored in double digits twice this season, and four of them are averaging in double digits. Cook is leading the team with 16.9 points per game, while Blumer is averaging 16.2. Rich is chipping in 13.5 points a game and McDermott is scoring just above 10.
“This is how it’s always been, and we feel like Connor is the X-factor for us,” Cook said. “We have two of the best bigs in the section (Rich and Blumer), and when Connor is hitting his shots from outside, it forces teams to stretch out to him. Then we stretch the floor pretty well and that helps us a lot.”
Having that type of balance, where any given player is able to go off at any moment, has given the Blue Devils an ability to be dangerous this season.
They are averaging 68.7 points per game, which is the sixth-best mark in WPIAL Class A, and on Tuesday, they eclipsed the century mark by scoring 103 on Aquinas Academy. Blumer led the team with 36 points and also added 21 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double.
“Our best games this year and our highest-scoring games have come from when anybody gets the ball, they are just going,” Cook said. “Against Aquinas, Jake was just getting out and going, and that helps us get out so much quicker and contributes to those higher scores.”
Although the Blue Devils have won some big games this year, they’ve lost some as well. Their three section losses have come against Clairton, Imani Christian and Greensburg Central Catholic — the three teams ahead of them in the Section 3-A race. Saltsburg and Apollo-Ridge also handed the Blue Devils a loss.
But as the season starts to enter the back half, the Blue Devils are starting to get healthy again and coach Damian Davies believes they are starting to play like they should.
“We’ve lost some really tough games this season, but I really feel like we’re playing well right now,” Davies said. “We’re excited for Imani on Friday and the second half of the season.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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