Deaths of former classmate, Kobe Bryant put win in perspective for Penn-Trafford boys

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Sunday, January 26, 2020 | 10:59 PM


It was a day of reflection and proper perspective for the Penn-Trafford boys basketball team.

A 64-43 win over Jeannette in the final game of the Shootout at Seton Hill showcase Sunday night was nice. It eradicated the bad taste of a section loss to Latrobe two days earlier.

But there was more to this one.

Former Warriors baseball player Maclean Maund was killed in a vehicle accident Saturday. The Seton Hill freshman, who was 19, was about to embark on a college career as a talented, left-handed pitcher.

A moment of silence was observed before tipoff, and Maund was honored at a Mass at the campus chapel.

A few hours before the game, the death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter crash shook the basketball galaxy to its core, a nightmarish swirl of disbelief and dejection.

“Heroes aren’t supposed to die,” Warriors coach Jim Rocco said. “It’s not supposed to be this way.”

Rocco said the idea of not playing the game was discussed, but school officials decided it would be best to play.

“Our kids are unbelievably resilient,” he said.

Wearing Kobe Bryant sneakers, Penn-Trafford guard Zach Rocco poured in 21 points, making four 3-pointers, for the Warriors (11-6) in a wire-to-wire win at Seton Hill’s McKenna Center.

The senior reached the 1,000-point mark for his career. The milestone came and went with little fanfare after Rocco scored with about five minutes left in the opening quarter.

More perspective.

“I had (Maund) in class,” said Jim Rocco, a forensic science teacher at Penn-Trafford. “Zach had class with him. It’s such a tragic thing for someone to be taken like that.

“Accidents have no bias. It’s just so sad when someone so young is tragically taken from family and friends, without notice. Just seems so unfair. He was such a super kid; funny, caring, committed to the game of baseball. Life’s so unfair at times and requires resilience and appreciation.”

Zach Rocco plays with a quiet humility and sheepishly acknowledged the moment he scored No. 1,000. The fourth-year starter who plans to play at Army, boosted his career total to 1,014 points.

“It’s nice to finally get it, but I don’t play to get to 1,000 points,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in the 1K club. But it’s not all about that for me.”

His father hadn’t been paying attention to a cumulative total for Zach but went back and added up the points after he was asked about the milestone.

“He’s not a kid who points a finger at himself,” the coach said. “He’s a team kid. It’s a nice accomplishment, and he’s earned it.”

Jeannette (11-7), which had a nine-game winning streak stopped, showed its appreciation for Bryant by hanging a No. 24 Jeannette jersey over an empty seat and the end of its bench.

“Kobe was one of my favorite players,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “It’s just a sad day.”

The Warriors made 10 3-pointers and held a double-digit lead from late in the first quarter on.

An 11-2 run in the second quarter made it 35-17, and four 3-pointers in the third quarter allowed Penn-Trafford to take a 51-31 lead to the fourth.

Sophomore Ben Myers added 10 points, sophomore Noah Wright made three 3s for nine points off the bench and junior Josh Kapcin scored eight.

Sophomore Anton Good had 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second half for Jeannette. Toby Cline chipped in eight.

“I don’t think we were in it mentally,” Batts said. “Every time we play P-T, they shoot the lights out. This was better than a practice, but we were flat.

“Rocco is a good player. He’s stronger than some guys in our section. I think we lost him in transition.”

Penn-Trafford still was reeling after being swept in Section 3-6A by last-place Latrobe.

“They’re like our kryptonite,” Zach Rocco said. “It was a bad matchup for us. Everyone played well for us tonight.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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