Leechburg looks to continue playing fast as playoffs approach

Thursday, February 25, 2021 | 7:21 PM

Throughout this season, the Leechburg boys basketball team has set out to do one thing: Get out and run.

Leechburg coach Damian Davies and the Blue Devils (7-4, 6-3) always want to take advantage of their athleticism by getting up and down the court and putting up as many attempts as they can. In their 11 regular season games, they did just that.

They averaged 71.4 points per game, which was tied for second in WPIAL Class A behind Bishop Canevin (73.8), and they scored 80-plus points three times.

“We feel like we have a lot of people who can score, and we feel like the more attempts we get, the more it is to our advantage,” Davies said. “That was what got us there last year, and I feel like that’s what gotten us there this year, and we just have a lot of difficult matchups, and we try to take advantage of those. We just want to bring our athleticism out as much as possible.”

With weapons like senior point guard Dylan Cook, junior big man Eli Rich and sophomore swingman Braylan Lovelace, the Blue Devils have plenty of size and ability all over the court.

In their 92-86 win over St. Joseph on Jan. 19, Cook scored 36. Rich and Lovelace have had big performances as well throughout the year.

Now, the Blue Devils are set for another WPIAL playoff appearance. When the playoff brackets were announced on Tuesday, Leechburg received the No. 6 seed. They’ll host No. 11 Mapletown (4-8, 3-7) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

When it comes to their first playoff matchup of the season, the Blue Devils are ready to stick to what they know.

“We want to be successful at what we do,” Davies said. “We want to create tempo and control the boards. We can get a little excited and get out early, instead of coming down and boxing people out, but we had a competitive section, and I think that has helped prepare us for the playoffs.”

The Blue Devils played in a section with No. 3 seed Eden Christian and No. 4 seed Imani Christian, and it challenged them to try to improve throughout the season. Toward the end of the season, they started to run into another problem that this season has presented.

It didn’t have anything to do with their competition, but rather the lack of. Since their 72-22 victory over the Propel Andrew Street on Jan. 19, the Blue Devils haven’t had the opportunity to play a competitive game.

They’ve still been able to get in a few scrimmages over the past week or so, and Rich said they are feeling ready heading into the playoffs.

“I think it makes it a little bit harder (to prepare for the playoffs), but we’ve been able to get a couple scrimmages in here or there,” Rich said. “So, I think we’ll be ready.”

A year ago, the Blue Devils went 15-6 and drew a matchup with Geibel Catholic in the first round of the Class A playoffs. In the past, the Blue Devils had success in the first round. During his first two seasons, Cook had made deep runs into the playoffs with his teams. This time, they came up just short in a 65-58 loss.

After having so much success during the regular season, Cook admitted that he may have looked too far ahead last year.

But that won’t be the case this season, even if Mapletown has lost its last seven games and is scoring 43.1 points per game while allowing 61.2.

“We kinda made the mistake of looking past Geibel last year because I won in the first round my two previous years and (Rich) won his freshman season,” Cook said. “We were looking to our rematch against Vincentian already, and that was why we lost. But we know better now, that’s for sure.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


More Basketball

73 WPIAL boys, girls basketball teams seeded for PIAA play
After WPIAL title, Deer Lakes boys set sights on run to state championship
WPIAL champion Norwin girls ‘refused to be outworked’ on title run
Shane Bartha, Apollo-Ridge’s all-time leading scorer, to join A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame
Aquinas Academy boys show they’re no one-man team