Penn-Trafford’s win over Hempfield has football feel

Friday, January 14, 2022 | 11:48 PM

Penn-Trafford figured there would come a time this season when it would need to rely on its football players to win basketball games.

Its strong, aggressive, championship-level football players.

That time was Friday night for juniors Tommy Kalkstein and Conlan Greene. The pair of WPIAL and PIAA 5A football champions played key roles on both ends of the floor to propel the Warriors to a steely 50-48 victory over Hempfield in a Section 3-6A game at the Spartan Field House.

Football is a game of inches. So was this basketball game.

“Me and Conlan like being the big, physical guys, the bullies in the paint,” said Kalkstein, who erupted for a career-high 17 points and made two 3-pointers. “We pushed ourselves. We’re all dogs. We try to outwork everyone.”

Penn-Trafford (6-7, 2-2) had an up-and-down stretch, beating Greensburg Salem by 46, losing to Fox Chapel by 38 and dropping a nonsection game to Seneca Valley before a win that evens its section mark.

“We battled hard, and we needed other guys to step up,” Warriors coach Doug Kelly said. “There was some grit and some dog in there.”

Hempfield, which has lost three straight, fell to 4-8, 1-3. The Spartans lost senior guard Joe Fiedor early to an apparent knee injury. His condition or playing status was unknown after the game.

The Spartans, known for their 3-point shooting, were limited to a season-low one 3, which came in the first quarter.

Greene, meanwhile, came up with a steal near midcourt, drove to the rim and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 with 25 seconds remaining to give the Warriors a 50-46 lead.

Hempfield high-scorer Chaz Ewer (16 points) scored inside to cut it to 50-48. But on Hempfield’s final possession, which started with about 14 seconds to go, Greene stepped in front of senior Don Hipps and blocked a potential game-winning 3-pointer, allowing Penn-Trafford to finally exhale and celebrate.

“The two football guys won it for them,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “Give Doug credit. I was out of timeouts, and he outcoached me. I didn’t have any timeouts, and we didn’t get a shot off. Give credit to Penn-Trafford.”

Kelly beamed talking about the effort of his football guys.

“When we’re looking at the scouting report, we’re saying they’re probably not going to guard you,” Kelly said of Kalkstein, a receiver, and Greene, who played tight end. “I told them, just feel it. Just play. I didn’t expect the 3s from Tommy. Conlan battled and really gave us a lift. They bring that winning attitude and leadership.”

Greene finished with seven points. Senior Noah Wright added 10 off the bench for the Warriors, and senior Nick Crum also chipped in seven.

Senior Brandon Learn was a bright spot for cold-shooting Hempfield with 12 points.

“B-Learn — best he’s ever played,” Swan said. “We’re just not that talented of a team. We have to defend better.”

Hempfield led for most of a sluggish first half, taking an 18-16 lead into the break.

Sophomore Tyler Freas, who started for the Warriors, hit a 3 just before halftime.

After three ties and three lead changes early in the third, the Warriors went ahead 25-22 on an and-1 finish by Freas.

“The thing about us is that in order for us to be successful, it takes everybody,” Kelly said.

Hempfield regained control after a pair of nice feeds under the rim from Learn to Ewer, and a turnaround hoop from senior Daniel Sierk, who followed the football-guy theme with nine points and quality minutes. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is a Bucknell football commit.

But Greene made two free throws, then a layup to put the Warriors back in front, 33-30, late in the third.

Hempfield hung around, cutting the lead to one, at 33-32 and again at 47-46 — on an and-1 from Learn — but could not overtake the Warriors in the fourth.

“Hempfield always plays us hard,” Kelly said. “I feel terrible about (Fiedor). My thoughts are with him and his family. We hope he is all right.”

The Spartans have a quick turnaround as they host No. 1 North Hills (10-0) at noon Saturday.

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

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