Cheswick Christian Academy boys aim for return to SWCAC playoffs

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 | 7:42 PM

All good things must come to an end, and last year it did for the Cheswick Christian Academy boys basketball team.

Last season marked the first time during Chargers’ coach Todd Rosio’s nearly two-decade tenure that Cheswick Christian Academy did not appear in the Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference postseason bracket. Making the playoffs was a given up until last season.

“It’s the first year I can remember not making the playoffs,” Rosio said. “Last year was a total retool. We graduated basically, or transferred, the entire roster almost. We only returned five points from the (2016) team that scored close to 2,000 points.”

The days of 6-foot-10 Ben Pollock roaming the paint are long gone. Cheswick Christian Academy (4-15) had a long run of success due in part to the amazing amount of talent that rolled through its doors.

“We were very fortunate to have the players we had,” Rosio said. “We’ve gotten more than our fair share of athletic kids.”

The 2017 season was the first in Rosio’s three-year plan to get his Chargers back to the top of SWCAC.

Rosio started at the basics last season: dribble, pass, shoot. Some players were stepping on the court for the first time and playing varsity basketball. Not only were the Chargers learning the basics, but Rosio said some of his players struggled believing they belonged on the court. The young Chargers were not only raw in talent but also short on confidence.

“Last year we had kids starting games that never started games before and didn’t even know if they belong in the world of varsity basketball,” Rosio said. “I think this year, they’re more like, ‘I’m here and I earned it.’ ”

The Chargers started 0-8 before knocking off SWCAC rival Cavalry Chapel, 59-37. With each tough loss, the Chargers grew closer closer as a team, and the Cavalry Chapel win was proof. Wins started to come a little bit easier and Cheswick Christian Academy closed out the stretch run of the regular season with a 3-5 record and barely missed the postseason. The Chargers caught fire late in the season and could have been dangerous had they snuck in the SWCAC postseason.

“It came basically down to one of the last games, and we needed to win a game near the end and we just didn’t,” Rosio said.

There’s plenty of optimism going into the 2018 season. Rosio returns everyone from last year’s team and has added a few new players. The challenge this year is to get the Chargers to peak sooner rather than later.

“If last year you were competitive, you’d like to take a step to being more competitive (this year),” Rosio said. “Last year, we had some games where we got rocked.”

The Chargers will need more production out of last season’s scoring and rebounding leader in junior guard/forward Andrew Drake. Rosio said Drake has “vastly improved” and has showed signs of being able to take on a leading role in the Chargers offense.

Senior guard Josiah Ivanov returns as the Chargers’ best all-around shooter. Ivanov is the Chargers’ best defender and will match up defensively against the opponent’s best player.

After spending his freshman season at Cheswick Christian, guard Jerry Vargo is back wearing Chargers blue and white after spending his sophomore season at rival Evangel Heights. Vargo and sophomore guard Kassius Clay can also get hot and knock down some shots.

“I think everybody is just better,” Rosio said. “As players, and as a team, I feel like we’re progressing and it’s hard to say how far and how fast but were ahead of where we were a year ago.”

Sophomore forward Zack Kosor rounds out the Chargers’ starting five. Rosio spoke highly of his bench players in freshman “Zooky” Malloy and sophomore Jesse Radvansky. Rosio said Malloy and Radvansky have the potential to earn more minutes as the season moves forward.

“I have no idea what the ceiling for this team could be,” Rosio said. “It’s realistic that we can make the playoffs.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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