Experienced backcourt gives Penn-Trafford postseason hope

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Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 7:15 PM


Since the inception of the six PIAA classifications, the Penn-Trafford boys basketball team has followed a steady uptrend. The Warriors had just five wins during the 2016-17 season, but finished with double-digit wins the past three seasons and advanced to the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals a year ago.

Getting back to that point and possibly further took a hit as senior Ben Myers, last year’s second-leading scorer and the Warriors best post player, is out for the year with an ACL injury.

What the Warriors do have is an experienced backcourt to help offset the void underneath. Seniors Nick Crum, Noah Wright and Johnny DeMarchis are back and each brings their own strengths to the lineup. Crum and Wright, along with Myers, all have interest from Division III programs.

“Crum is a sharp shooter and great defender. Wright is very skilled at point guard and has a really high basketball IQ, and DeMarchis does all the little things for us, especially defending and rebounding,” P-T coach Doug Kelly said.

A pair of juniors who improved during the offseason in guard Gio Merola and 6-foot-5 forward Andrew Kessler will look to make an impact this season. There also are several underclassmen in the mix.

“Merola, who played JV last year, has had a nice offseason,” Kelly said. “He gives us another shooter on the perimeter and a tough kid who is battling every day. Kessler has improved and gives us someone who has length, can help on boards and defend the rim. Several sophomores are battling for varsity time also and have racked up some valuable offseason varsity minutes in fall leagues and summer leagues.”

Kelly named Jason Sabol, Nathan Crum, Tyler Freas and Ian Temple as underclassmen who have been most impressive thus far.

“All can shoot the ball and have good motors,” he said.

Getting the upperclassmen and the newcomers on the same page will be crucial to the Warriors success.

“So far, kids are working very hard and starting to come together, still a long way to go defensively,” Kelly said. “This team is different even though we have three returning starters who are now seniors. Our success will rely a lot on those guys but also depend on how our underclassmen commit to the defensive end of things. They bring us energy and the ability to shoot and score the ball.”

While Penn-Trafford will have a tough road in Section 3-6A againstCentral Catholic, Fox Chapel, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield and Norwin. The Warriors’ nonsection competition is equally difficult.

“Section will be tough as always and there is no night off in our section or on our schedule,” Kelly said. “Greensburg Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Gateway, Franklin Regional, Latrobe, Baldwin, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills and Connellsvile make for a very challenging non-section schedule.”

With the rugged schedule and an injury already in front of the Warriors, the expectations do not change.

“Our expectations will continue to be trying to build a culture where kids work hard and defend and rebound,” Kelly said.

Penn Trafford opens their season Friday in the Hempfield Tournament against Greensburg Central Catholic. Section play begins Jan. 4 at Central Catholic.

Penn Trafford boys at a glance

Coach: Doug Kelly

Last year’s record: 13-6 (7-4 Section 3-6A)

Returning starters: Nick Crum (Sr., G), Noah Wright (Sr., G/PG), Johnny DeMarchis (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Gio Merola (Jr., G), Andrew Kessler (Jr., F)

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