Detail-oriented Penn-Trafford boys collecting quality wins

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Thursday, January 2, 2020 | 4:49 PM


Penn-Trafford is more interested in the small details than the big picture.

The Warriors boys basketball team is off to a firm start, but its success is more situational than all-encompassing as Section 3-6A play begins to ramp up.

“I’m not terribly surprised by the start we’ve had,” coach Jim Rocco said. “As a coach, you become immersed in little things, little details. That is what I’m interested in, seeing us get better with the little things. We’re fortunate to have the record we have, but I am more concerned with if our guys are ready to handle that big moment in games.”

Big moments have shown themselves several times so far and the Warriors have answered the bell rather than shy away. They have played with tight leads, improvised on the fly and flipped defenses in transition.

Penn-Trafford is 7-2 (1-0 in section) with a lineup that features one senior, point guard Zach Rocco, and a number of fresh-faced juniors and sophomores who are learning with each varsity minute they log.

A section game Friday night at Latrobe will be a test, and it will reveal just how far along the Warriors have come.

“The energy from the group has been tremendous,” Jim Rocco said. “Each player exhibits an ability to challenge and inspire each other. Their commitment to each other fuels that energy.”

Zach Rocco has been a scorer and facilitator, as expected from the fourth-year starter who is averaging 20.8 points, but the Warriors have received steady contributions from an enthusiastic supporting cast.

That includes juniors Chase Vecchio, Silas Koscho, Josh Kapcin and Jarred Schoffstall and sophomores Nick Crum and 6-foot-5 Ben Myers.

“You look at guys like Chase and Jarred Schoffstall, who are our there diving for loose balls. They’re just so gritty,” Jim Rocco said. “We all appreciate that in each other.”

Attention to detail always has been a strong suit for Zach Rocco, and he is looking to help along a budding unit rather than trying to do too much himself.

“I am not a ball-hog scorer,” he said. “Obviously I want the ball, and I am going to get the ball because that’s what I do as the point guard, and I have to run the system and get everyone organized. It’s operating in the flow of the game, which I think I am good at, and what our team is good at.”

Two quality wins to open the season at the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament set the tone. The Warriors edged North Allegheny, 52-50, and Belle Vernon, 76-71.

Fast forward to three games at the KSA Tournament in Orlando, Fla., where the Warriors faced three strong opponents and went 2-1 with wins over David Douglas (Ore.) and Uniontown and a loss to Central Virginia.

“We played some really good teams in Florida,” said Zach Rocco, who had 28 points in the defeat. “We should have won all three games, but we missed 15 free throws (against Central Virginia).”

The Warriors ground out a 56-48 win over Franklin Regional in the opening game of the Penn-Trafford Holiday Tournament before falling to McKeesport, 49-47.

Zach Rocco poured in 32 against Franklin Regional.

“The team has supported each other every game,” Vecchio said. “We take one game at a time.”

Vecchio said the trip to Florida, where Latrobe also played a few games — none against Penn-Trafford — helped the Warriors.

“We worked on our ability to compete by playing more physical and seeing some different styles of play,” Vecchio said.

Sharing the ball and turning up the defensive pressure have been keys for the Warriors.

“That’s a tribute to our younger guys,” Zach Rocco said. “They have learned to adapt to the speed of the game and the varsity environment.”

Playing more than 60 games in the offseason also helped build camaraderie.

During a NCAA “live period” when college coaches could look at potential recruits up close, Jim Rocco took his team to an event in Philadelphia.

“Did we get beat up? Yes,” Rocco said. “But it’s not about that. The experience helped our kids. Seeing that kind of competition can go a long way for them.”

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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