Latrobe boys basketball wants to restore playoff tradition

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Monday, November 20, 2023 | 4:50 PM


Latrobe didn’t make the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2022-23.

That’s unusual for a program that has been a consistent postseason participant.

The Wildcats’ goal is to right the ship and get back into the playoffs.

“It’s difficult to swallow,” Latrobe boys coach Brad Wetzel said. “It’s an anomaly. Last year we felt we were in good shape and ready to make a late-season run to the playoffs. It never occurred. It left a bad taste in our mouths.

“We play in the toughest section in the WPIAL. You have to be ready for a tough battle every time you step on the floor.”

The Wildcats’ opponents in Section 3-5A are Gateway, Penn-Trafford, McKeesport, Franklin Regional and Kiski Area.

Latrobe was set to return four starters: senior guard Ja’Tawn Williams, junior forward Max Butler, junior point guard John Wetzel (the coach’s son) and junior forward Alex Tatsch.

The Wildcats, however, already face some adversity. Tatsch and reserve junior forward Jack Drnjevich will miss the season while recovering from surgery from injuries during football season.

So Wetzel will lean on his son John, Butler and Williams to carry the load. He also likes what he’s seen from junior Kyle McNeil and sophomore Ian DeCerb.

Others Coach Wetzel expects to contribute include senior Darius Davis, junior Brady Prohovic, sophomore Andy Tatsch and sophomore Sawyer Butina.

But a good offseason has Coach Wetzel looking forward to an exciting season.

“Our team chemistry is a lot better,” Coach Wetzel said. “We played a lot of basketball.”

And while Latrobe won’t feature a dominant post player, it will rely on its pressure defense and running game.

“We want to push the ball and play our style,” Wetzel said. “Do what we do the best. I thought Kyle and Ian really have improved.”

Butler and John Wetzel averaged 11 points and Williams 8.

John Wetzel, who is the quarterback of the football team, will run the offense.

“John is a good leader,” Coach Wetzel said. “He understands what we want and where to distribute the ball.”

Max Butler is the fourth Butler brother to play for Wetzel. He follows Austin, Bryce and Landon, all of whom went on to play in college.

Latrobe will scrimmage Elizabeth Forward on Nov. 27. It opens the season Dec. 1 at Pitt-Johnstown against Richland. The second game could be against Berlin-Brothersvalley.

Latrobe boys at a glance

Coach: Brad Wetzel

Last year’s record: 8-14 (3-7 Section 3-5A)

Returning starters: Max Butler (Jr., F), John Wetzel (Jr., PG), Ja’Tawn Williams (Sr., G).

Top newcomers: Kyle McNeil (Jr., F), Ian DeCerb (So., F), Brady Prohovic (Jr., G), Darius Davis (Sr., G), Andy Tatsch (So., G), Sawyer Butina (So., G).

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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