North Allegheny boys basketball optimistic after reaching playoffs last season

Friday, November 24, 2017 | 11:00 PM

Keith Noftz was able to demonstrate progress during his first season as the North Allegheny boys basketball coach.

Last season, the Tigers finished 14-9 overall and their 6-6 section record allowed them to return to the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs after a one-year absence. Taking another step will be dependent on North Allegheny replacing the 50.8 percent of its scoring it lost to graduation last season.

What the Tigers have remaining has Noftz feeling optimistic. North Allegheny opens the season Dec. 9 vs. Erie Cathedral Prep.

“I like our team,” Noftz said. “A lot of the underclassmen were major contributors last year. It's not like the cupboard's empty. We think we have some good players who had a good offseason.”

Senior guard 6-foot-4 guard Curtis Aiken Jr., who has more than 1,000 career points, led the team in scoring by averaging 19.1 points. He was second with 51 3-pointers and had an 80.7 shooting percentage from the free-throw line.

Guard Ray Sandherr started eight games and averaged 6.2 points, and center Zach Johnson averaged 5.2 points.

“We go down to No. 12 (on the roster), and it's not much of a fall off,” Noftz said. “We have good depth and size.”

A key transfer, 6-6 forward Stephen Humphries, also will play an integral role in the rotation. Humphries played at Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller High School last season. Archbishop Moeller reached Ohio's Division I championship game before losing by a point.

“He comes from a great basketball program,” Noftz said. “It's not like we're starting from scratch with him. He fits in well. He's a smart kid, a good player and is physically gifted. He has to earn his way, but he has the tools to do it.”

North Allegheny must compete in a tough section. Pine-Richland won the WPIAL, beating section foe Butler in the finals, before finishing as PIAA runner-up.

The Tigers would like to take another step forward.

Winning a playoff game would be next in the chain of progression.

“Senior leadership and playing together,” Noftz said, about what North Allegheny needs to do to get better. “That's been the knock on NA, it's been no surprise to anybody. If we can play together and get off to a good start, we can have a good year.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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