Gritty Penn-Trafford boys basketball team shows flair for tight games

Thursday, December 16, 2021 | 6:36 PM

Four games is a long way from a full body of work, and Penn-Trafford already has more losses than its football team had all season, but boys basketball coach Doug Kelly sees an intangible in his team that makes him ball up his fist and grit his teeth when he thinks about it.

He gets excited about the Warriors’ unfettered ability to withstand opposing rallies and simply hang around teams, even against some twice their size.

Down their big man for the season, the Warriors are pushing forward with guards. Lots of guards.

“These guys battle,” Kelly said. “There is no lack of fight in this group. We talk about fighting like dogs. That’s what we’re doing.”

Penn-Trafford (1-3) rolls out an all-guard lineup most of the time, a product of its personnel and the loss of senior 6-foot-6 forward Ben Myers to a season-ending ACL injury.

Five guards spread the floor or dribble drives trying to uncover open looks for kick-outs. On the other end, they defend relentlessly and try to get rebounds over taller players.

“It’s what we do, who we are and how we play,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if it’s something we need to change.”

Seniors Nick Crum and Noah Wright have been the leaders.

“We have shown flashes of what we can be,” Crum said. “But looking back on the first three games, there is definitely room for improvement.”

Remember, the Warriors went to the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals last year and lost 58-55 in overtime to Butler and star Devin Carney, who prevented them from reaching the final four with a heart-sinking, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from just over half-court.

The way the Warriors see it, though, bring on the close games. That means they have a chance to win, and that is all Kelly can ask of his players.

“We could go the other way and panic,” Kelly said. “We can get too excited. But I tell them, just calm down. It’s not over yet.”

Already this year, the Warriors have taken two solid teams to overtime. They fell to North Allegheny, 56-54, and Franklin Regional, 53-47.

“The thing about P-T is that they have a bunch of guys who can shoot it,” Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed said. “You have teams that have maybe two or three guys like that, but they have shooters all over the place. That’s tough to defend.”

Crum and Wright have had plenty of help as Kelly has stretched his bench to go about 10 deep.

Sophomore Jason Sabol, senior Johnny Demarchis, junior Giovani Merola and sophomores Tyler Freas, Nate Crum and Ian Temple have all provided key backcourt minutes.

Nick Crum is the tallest guard and the team really doesn’t have a forward in the true sense of the position on the floor until junior Andrew Kessler enters the game.

“We are similar, but each player has different strengths,” Nick Crum said of the guards. “We try and position everyone so they play where they’re most comfortable. It’s tough with a lot of guards, but we just try to play off of one another and stick to coach’s game plan.”

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


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