George Guido: New basketball coaches debut across Alle-Kiski Valley

Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 6:57 PM

The start of the high school basketball season Friday featured a number of coaches making their debuts with their respective teams and the advanced start of the season itself.

Albie Fletcher, assistant coach to the departed Terence Parham and longtime youth coach in the community, made his debut as Deer Lakes coach.

The game started with the Lancers jumping out to an 8-0 lead, but Shaler’s sharpshooting eventually guided the Titans to a 69-57 victory.

No matter how long you’ve been an assistant or an offseason coach, there’s something about taking over a varsity team, as Fletcher paced in front of the Lancers bench as his team warmed up before tipoff.

“It was exciting,” Fletcher said. “I told the kids I could go out there and play right now, so you have to go out there for me. That’s the old competitor in me that came out. But I’m really happy with their effort.”

Another coach making his debut with an eye-opening result was Kiski Area girls coach Dave Williamson. His Cavaliers surprised Knoch, the WPIAL Class 4A runner-up last season, 50-38, at the Armstrong Tip-off Tournament. With four starters back, Kiski Area has hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.

“I’m blessed, and this is a great opportunity,” Williamson told the Tribune-Review.

While Knoch lost Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Maddie Boyer, the Knights still have a strong team, including Megan Vasas, who missed all of last season with an injury.

Another game that appeared to be surprising on the surface was Fox Chapel’s 50-38 boys victory over Pine-Richland. The 6A champs from last year, now a 5A team, graduated all five starters. But several key reserves from last season look ready to step up and make their mark.

Season moved up

Some are wondering why the winter sports seasons in the state sneaked up so quickly.

The PIAA moved up the season’s playing schedule by one week.

Since 1984, the PIAA winter sports season started the second weekend after Thanksgiving. In basketball, schools are permitted a 22-game regular season schedule in a nine-week span. That meant schools had several times where they played three games per week.

Plus, the PIAA wanted to get the season completed before Easter weekend, April 1-2. So that meant a condensed preseason with a week removed.

Some coaches approached the tip-off tournaments this weekend by treating them like a glorified scrimmage with game jerseys.

Lafko hits 500

Congratulations to Hampton coach Joe Lafko for the 500th win of his coaching career. The Talbots defeated Seneca Valley, 66-60, on opening night.

While Lafko has had some great basketball teams at Hampton, he is also known for holding the state record for interceptions in football with 37, set while playing for Frazier High School from 1981-83.

Falter honored

Highlands honored the late Rich Falter before Friday’s game against Burrell with a moment of silence.

Falter, whose teams won 255 games and one WPIAL title during his 17-year tenure as coach of the Golden Rams, died May 24 at age 72.

The ceremony and the game itself will be replayed at 8 p.m. Monday on Comcast Channel 190.

Never one to toot his own horn, Falter had to be deceived into coming to the gym one night so he could be entered into the school’s basketball hall of fame.

He never would have showed up if he knew what the ceremony was about, nor would he have approved of Friday’s recognition.

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