Despite short bench, Shaler boys off to strong start to season

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Thursday, December 26, 2019 | 5:31 PM


Playing eight or nine deep is the goal for Shaler Area boys basketball coach Rob Niederberger. For much of this season, the Titans’ health woes made that seem like an off-in-the-distance dream.

In Shaler’s Section 3-5A opener against Kiski Area, Niederberger played Darin Mizgorski and Logan Bernesser, who both had missed a lot of practice time because of various ailments.

While filling out the roster has been a day-by-day situation, Shaler hasn’t suffered for it. Following a 65-36 win over Indiana last Friday, the Titans improved to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in section play.

“We didn’t play as many guys,” Niederberger said. “We had a shorter bench. I think we can go eight or nine deep, but I haven’t been able to do it all year. We had two guys finally come back the day of Kiski and they didn’t even practice. I felt like if they were cleared, may as well throw them in the fire.”

The Titans wasted little time making their presence felt in section. Shaler outlasted defending section and WPIAL champion Mars, 73-62, at home Dec. 17, though the Planets were without star senior forward Michael Carmody.

Mekhi Reynolds, Shaler’s top scorer, played but was hobbled with an ankle injury. Titans senior forward Nick Rispoli said the Titans are focused on putting forward their best effort.

“It’s big that a lot of people have been starting to step up,” Rispoli said. “Early in the year, we weren’t scoring a lot of points. People are starting to embrace their role and contribute their part.”

Opening with a win over Kiski also showed Rispoli a lot. The Titans were limited to 42 points but were able to pull out a three-point win.

“Kiski was a gritty win,” Rispoli said. “It says a lot about the team. When shots aren’t falling and we aren’t playing our best ball, we can still grind out wins.”

Settling in has Shaler pointed in the right direction.

Niederberger feels the Titans benefited from having a week between games following the matchup with the Little Indians. Having practice time allowed Shaler to address its flaws.

“We had our two best practices the past two days,” Niederberger said on Christmas Eve. “We’re getting guys back on track where they need to be. The way we look at it, the expectations where we expect to be playing at, we aren’t there yet.”

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