Kiski Area boys coach Smith confident entering 2nd season

Monday, November 21, 2022 | 6:35 PM

Every time he’s in the gym at Kiski Area High School, Corey Smith looks up at banners representing the Cavaliers’ WPIAL section championships in boys basketball and feels the pride of being a member of those title teams in 2000 and ’02.

For Smith, there’s just something about being a Cavalier.

Years later, as he enters his second season as their coach, Smith hopes to add another flag, the first at the school since 2013.

“My goal is for these guys to come back in the gym some day and say, ‘That’s mine,’ ” said Smith, who last season guided Kiski Area to its first winning record in eight years.

“I feel like we came in and turned the program around for the better,” he said.

Now, Smith is confident he’s onto something.

“We’re not going backwards,” he said, “and I’ve told the team that more than once.”

It is, perhaps, a developing Kiski Area motto.

“These guys have set a new standard,” Smith said. “They’re tuned in to what we believe. It’s always the goal to win a section and make the (WPIAL) playoffs.”

Smith likes his team’s chances to contend again after the Cavaliers went 15-8 last season and managed a .500 record (6-6) in Section 3-5A following a 66-60 first-round loss to Hampton.

Three starters return, including Smith’s son, LeBryn, a four-year starter at point guard.

“He’s going to be a big part of our team with his experience,” Corey Smith said. “He’s had a lot of experience on the varsity level. His basketball IQ is beyond his years. I’m looking for him to score a little more this year and rebound and, most of all, be a leader.”

Junior guards Jason Flemm and Isaiah Gonzalez also are back to bolster Kiski Area’s lineup. Flemm, whom Corey Smith labels “a great shooter,” is recovered from a knee injury from last season, while Gonzalez was the team’s top scorer a year ago.

“He can do it all,” Smith said of Gonzalez. “He can take you off the dribble, and he can shoot it. He’s got very good range and likes to use a pull-up jumper. I’m looking for a big year from him.”

With double-figure scorers James Pearson and Joe Lucas lost to graduation, Smith said the depth of the Kiski Area bench should be capable of picking up slack.

The Cavaliers will need the help, and Smith expects to find out very early if his predictions hold true.

Kiski Area’s nonsection schedule includes immediate tests with trips to Class 6A teams New Castle and Butler and Class 4A Highlands, which reached the WPIAL semifinals last season.

Incidentally, New Castle has moved up in class after last season posting a 27-3 record and reaching the PIAA Class 5A championship game before losing to Imotep Charter.

There’s also a meeting with Class 4A power Belle Vernon, which is coming off a 20-5 season and a trip to the PIAA playoffs.

“Those games will be a dogfight every single night,” Smith said. “Definitely, we’re looking to win our section this year. I’ve beefed up the nonsection schedule to try to get ready for it. We’re going to take some bumps with the caliber of teams we’re playing, but come January in section play, I wholeheartedly believe we’ll be ready to go.”

That bench includes seniors Dom Dininno and Connor Flemm and juniors Terry “Bart” Martin, Owen Pearson and Noah Timmons.

“These guys all know their roles,” Smith said. “A lot of them will come off the bench and get a lot of minutes.”

Kiski Area opens its schedule Dec. 2 and 3 at the Armstrong Tipoff Tournament, where the Cavaliers will be joined by Class A Geibel, District 10-3A’s Slippery Rock and host Armstrong, another Class 5A opponent.

The Cavaliers remain in Section 3, which has lost Penn Hills and Woodland Hills and added Penn-Trafford.

Others in the section are Gateway, Latrobe and McKeesport.

At a glance

Coach: Corey Smith

Last season’s record: 15-8 (6-6 Section 3-5A)

Returning starters: LeBryn Smith (Sr., G), Jason Flemm (Jr., G), Isaiah Gonzalez (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Terry “Bart” Martin (Jr., F/G), Owen Pearson (Jr., F)


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