Kapcin’s block helps Penn-Trafford end 20-year playoff drought

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 | 9:05 PM

A long playoff drought ended for the Penn-Trafford boys basketball program Tuesday.

And it was a defensive play that keyed the win.

The Warriors, sparked by defensive blocked shot and resulting layup by Josh Kapcin, rolled to a 63-50 victory against North Hills in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.

The victory puts Penn-Trafford (13-5) into the quarterfinals Friday at home against Butler.

It was Penn-Trafford’s first playoff win since 2001 when it defeated Peters Township, 54-51, in overtime. None of the players from Tuesday’s game was even born when that one was played.

After North Hills (4-10) trimmed the Warriors’ lead to 34-23 with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left in the third quarter, Kapcin stepped up. He blocked a shot attempt by Alex Smith, snatched the rebound and raced down court for a layup.

The play energized the team as Kapcin scored seven consecutive points to push the Warriors lead to 41-23. That was part of a 12-0 run that stretched the Penn-Trafford lead to 46-23 on a bucket by Tommy Kalkstein.

“Josh has done that all year,” Penn-Trafford coach Doug Kelly said. “He’s made great plays like that. We call it a group of threes. He’s a risk guy. He’ll get beat. He’s not that sit-in-a-gap kind of defensive player. It’s nice to have a guy like that.”

Kapcin finished with a team-high 16 points.

“That just us playing at a fast pace and turning our defense into offense,” Kapcin said. “That’s something we’re really big on. We get the ball, and we start pushing and take the pressure off our half-court offense.”

After Jared Schoffstall gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead with a 3-pointer, Kapcin scored the next six points for his team as it built a 9-3 lead.

North Hills, which finished last in Section 1 but had quality wins against North Allegheny and Butler, didn’t get its first field goal until Devin Burgess’ bucket with 2:18 left in the opening quarter. It never took the lead.

The Warriors turned up the defensive pressure on North Hills in the second quarter, forcing six turnovers and limiting the Indians to one basket, and opened up a 27-13 lead at halftime.

“Defense is one of the things we really wanted to improve on as a Penn-Trafford team,” Kelly said. “We wanted to continue to compete harder with our on the ball defense, support defense and rebounding. I thought we did a good job rebounding, especially in the first half and over three quarters.

“Those are things we worked on all season. We felt those were the areas that we were going to have a chance every night. Those are the things that were going to carry us.”

North Hills’ junior guard Alex Smith was held to nine points, one in the first half. The Indians’ 6-foot-6 freshman, Royce Parham, finished with 14 points, 10 in the second half, and 6-4 junior Devin Burgess came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points, 10 coming in the fourth quarter.

Ben Myers, the Warriors’ 6-6 junior, had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Chase Vecchio finished with 10, five in the third quarter when Penn-Trafford broke open the game.

And while Kelly was pleased with the win, there were a few lapses during the game that upset him and he said must be fixed before Friday.

North Hills turned the ball over 20 times and was 19 of 43 from the field but only 8 for 26 through three quarters.

Penn-Trafford had 11 turnovers and went 24 for 45 from the field.

Butler defeated Norwin, 59-46.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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