Kiski Area boys basketball enjoying turnaround this season

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Thursday, January 13, 2022 | 3:55 PM


Kiski Area’s boys basketball team has not only exceeded last year’s win total, the Cavaliers have actually doubled it.

New coach Corey Smith, a standout with the program from the early 2000s, has taken over as head coach and has his alma mater at 2-1 in Section 3-5A play and 10-2 overall.

Kiski Area was 2-10, 5-15 last season.

Smith attributes the quick turnaround to a change in culture.

“I think these kids really needed a culture change,” Smith said. “With me coming in here, back at home, they know what I’m about. They knew me when I got hired.”

One task Smith has is stopping the prevalent moving vans in the area. Four players transferred out of the school district before the 2020-21 season started.

“Hopefully, me getting hired here will definitely stop the transfers,” Smith said. “It’s a team effort, I’m just here for the culture change.”

Senior Joe Lukas returned after a stint at another Kiski — Kiskiminetas Springs School — popularly known as The Kiski School, located near Saltsburg.

The only losses thus far have come to section foe McKeesport on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and to Butler, a Class 6A contender.

Senior forward James Pearson also credited his coach.

“Hey, 10-2 baby, the coach has changed the whole mentality of the game,” Pearson said. “We go out there and play our hardest. We’re not selfish at all. We move the ball around and they really can’t stop us.”

One example Tuesday night was in the third quarter when the Cavaliers began pulling away from Woodland Hills. Jason Flemm looked to have a shot from the middle of the key but, instead, shoveled the ball back to Isaiah Gonzalez who was more wide open. The basket gave the Kiski Area a 32-18 advantage.

Shooting is a strength of this year’s Cavaliers edition.

Against the Wolverines, Kiski Area canned seven 3-point baskets to none for Woodland Hills.

Said Smith: “We have a lot of shooters on the team, but we still have to share the ball. Any guy can go off on any given night, though. I’m big on being shot-ready.”

Lukas and sophomore Gonzalez are the leading scorers at about a dozen points per game. Rounding out the starters is Smith’s son, Lebryn, a junior, and Flemm, a sophomore. Also playing key roles are seniors Brayden Dunmire and Logan Johnson, along with junior Dom DiNinno.

Section opponents are also aware of how the Cavaliers employ a certain style of play.

“They work their tails off,” Woodland Hills coach Eugene Wilson said. “We talked about in our scouting meeting is that they’re a hard-working team that’s going to grind it out. They’re going to try to win the 50-50 balls and things of that nature, getting down on the floor and doing all the necessary things.”

Things don’t get easier for the Cavaliers Friday as Kiski Area visits first-place Penn Hills in a 7:30 p.m. contest. Penn Hills (9-1, 3-1) is a half-game ahead of the Cavaliers in the section race.

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