Battle-tested Pine-Richland boys basketball better than record suggests

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Sunday, February 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM


An initial glance at the overall record for the Pine-Richland boys basketball team might not look impressive, but diving into the details can change the perspective.

Consider:

After a season-opening victory, the Rams’ first three losses were in overtime by a combined eight points. Pine-Richland also went toe-to-toe in early January against undefeated and top-ranked North Hills before losing by four. A slightly better finish in some of those contests, and the Rams might be seeded higher than No. 7 in the WPIAL Class 6A bracket.

“With our injuries and our section (Section 1), it is super tough,” second-year coach Bob Petcash said. “I saw that our schedule alone was one of the top three toughest in the state.”

Bethel Park found out how battle-tested Pine-Richland was in the first round, losing to the Rams, 64-41.

“Finally, we’re injury-free,” Petcash said. “We have to play as a team and share it (the ball), and the guys really bought into our gameplan.”

Pine-Richland entered last year’s tournament as the sixth seed, and the Rams made it to the title game before losing to Upper St. Clair, 56-53. That loss was motivation for this year season, according to guard/forward Joey Dudkowski.

“An (11-11) record (prior to the game) is not what we think about ourselves. We came up a little bit short last year, and we just want to capitalize on it this year,” Dudkowski said.

Three senior starters and two other seniors who also were contributors to last year’s championship run form the core of this year’s team.

“We have a great group. These guys are amazing,” said Petcash, who spent six seasons at the top assistant for Pine-Richland before becoming head coach.

Andrew Alexander, Luke Shanahan and Dudkowski started for Pine-Richland last season, while Andrew Swartout and Jameson O’Toole saw plenty of playing time off the bench. Throw in senior Nathan Zavasky, and those six make up an experienced unit.

“I’ve been around them since they’ve been in kindergarten through the whole Pine-Richland program. They have been huge for our program,” Petcash said. “These six seniors are all basketball guys. They work 12 months out of the year, and they’re going to be really successful in life.”

Petcash also deflected some of the credit elsewhere.

“It all goes through Larry Bracco in the Pine-Richland youth center. For me as a coach running the program, I’m doing minimal because it’s all the other parents and every else pitching in.”

Dudkowski said of the seniors: “It’s hard work in practice, but it’s also chemistry, I’ve been playing with these kids forever. Going out to play the sport that I love with the kids that I love, it’s just awesome.”

The seniors also are capable scorers for Pine-Richland, with Dudkowski (15.5 average) and Shanahan (14.9) leading the way. Both notched double figures against the Black Hawks, with Shanahan chipping in 12 points, while Dudkowski had a game-high 26 points, which tied his season high.

“It’s the character of the kids, but it’s also our system,” Petcash said.

Pine-Richland faced No. 2 Fox Chapel in the quarterfinals. The game ended too late to be included in this edition. The Rams defeated the Foxes, 76-63, last season in the semifinals.

Fox Chapel is having a phenomenal year. They’re a great team, very well coached,” Petcash said. “You know what you’re going to get. It’s going to be a battle, but we’re not going to change what we do.”

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