Guard-heavy Pine-Richland boys ready to continue success
By: Kevin Lohman
Saturday, December 8, 2018 | 1:18 AM
Coming off back-to-back WPIAL Class 6A title game appearances, including a championship in 2016-17, the Pine-Richland boys basketball team has set a high standard.
And despite losing two of its top players — big men Phil Jurkovec and Andrew Kristofic — to the Notre Dame football team, the Rams are positioned to be in the mix for another shot at the crown.
Senior guards Greg Shulkosky, Colin Luellen and Dan Petcash should help the Rams overcome any potential issues inside.
Coach Jeff Ackermann said the trio will be instrumental this season. But make no mistake about it, Petcash is the headliner of this group.
“Dan can do everything. He can play the one through five positions for us. He’s just that kind of player. I think he’ll end up being recognized as one of the very best in the WPIAL by the end of the year,” Ackermann said.
“He’s always improving. Basketball is his thing, and he loves it. He’s passionate about it, for sure. I think he’s going to have a really good year for us.”
The 6-foot-4 Petcash earned first-team all-section honors after posting 17.6 points per game last season.
Pine-Richland will need to turn to a few less-seasoned players to fill the void left by Jurkovec and Kristofic. Two players who will see minutes inside are juniors Cam Kirkland (6-6) and Patrick Shanahan (6-4).
Another junior, Kyle Polce, might not have the size of Kirkland or Shanahan, but he has the potential to make up for some of the scoring the Rams lost.
“He’s more of a guard, so we may bump Colin (Luellen) down to the 4 and have Kyle play the 3 for us, but he will be a really great player for us here at Pine-Richland if he continues to work hard,” Ackermann said.
“Kyle will be a kid that we need to score for us every night. He needs to have a really strong year in order for us to be as good as we want to be.”
Other important cogs in the Rams rotation are Joey Petcash, Logan Murray and Levi Wentz, a 6-2 lefty who has impressed at practice, Ackermann said.
With a rotation of eight or nine players that contains as many as six or seven guards, the WPIAL Class 6A runners-up are looking to accentuate strengths by playing a fast-paced, up-tempo offensive game that emphasizes ball movement and transition.
If they can do that, along with a few other things, the Rams can be a force to be reckoned with in Section 1-6A once again.
“I think that as long as we play hard, play fast and play good defense, we’ll be competitive this year for sure,” Ackermann said. “I set high goals for our team, and I think we can achieve them as long as we stay healthy, stay together and mesh as a team.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.