Joey Dudkowski shoots Pine-Richland into contention

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Saturday, January 23, 2021 | 8:01 AM


Pine-Richland’s Joey Dudkowski can drive to the hoop for a layup, pull up for a mid-range jumper and get off a quick 3-pointer from the perimeter, each with a fluid ease.

Down 45-36 late in the third quarter against No. 5 Butler on Jan. 19, the 6-foot-3 junior put his full arsenal of pinpoint shooting on display to spark a 15-3 run and a 65-61 comeback win.

“It’s a huge team win,” said Dudkowski, who finished with 12 points. “We were close in the North Allegheny game and couldn’t pull out a win, and this was a great bounce-back game to show that we’re the real deal and that we can compete with the best teams in the section.”

Dudkowski worked on all three levels of his offensive game for two or more hours a day in the offseason with one goal in mind — to make his every move a guessing game for defenders.

After waiting his turn to play at the varsity level behind stars like Kyle Polce and Logan Murray, Dudkowski has shined, particularly on the offensive side of the ball where he has scored 21.5 points per game.

“We knew he’d contribute, even going back to when he was a ninth grader, which is when he was moved up to JV,” Pine-Richland coach Bob Petcash said. “He’s very dedicated to the sport and works all year round to get better. He continuously progresses, and it’s a long season. We need to have him be consistent in all phases of the game for us to be successful this year.”

Dudkowski also hit the weight room in the offseason.

He knew from guarding Polce in practices last year that he would need to be more physical to compete at the varsity level.

“The biggest thing I learned from guys like (Joe Petcash and Kyle Polce) is if you want to play at the varsity level, you’ve got to be careful with the ball and make smart decisions,” Dudkowski said. “It’s not always about scoring. It’s about making the right decision, knowing your role and playing your role well.”

If there’s one part of his game Dudkowski wants to improve to help the Rams win, it’s on the defensive end.

“I feel like we’re really strong on offense,” Dudkowksi said. “We have a lot of good offensive players. Where I want to work personally is on the defensive side of the court. I’ve got to cut down on my fouls, be able to move my feet, stay in front of better players, make the right play on defense and lead to easy offense.”

Dudkowski got into foul trouble in the first half against Butler, but rebounded on defense in the third period, initially by collecting the steal that led to a fast break and the first points for Pine-Richland’s comeback.

He also drew two fouls on the defensive side of the ball to stymie Butler’s offense in the fourth period.

“He brings high basketball IQ and good instincts,” Bob Petcash said. “That translates into the system we’re running. He’s also been playing with a lot of these guys in travel leagues since they were really young, so they all know each other, which is good. We want to keep everyone competing, develop consistency, and hopefully we can peak at the right time right before the playoffs to make a run at it.”

If the Rams continue to develop, Dudkowski believes they can be a serious playoff contender.

“Every single person on the team is all in,” Dudkowski said. “We just want to compete, do our best, see how far we can make it and hopefully win a WPIAL championship.”

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