North Hills boys basketball season marked by ups, downs

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Saturday, March 25, 2023 | 11:01 AM


For a second straight year, Buzz Gabos is proud of his team’s accomplishments but also is left wanting more.

Gabos, who just completed his 17th season as North Hills’ boys basketball coach, led the Indians to a 20-7 record with appearances in the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA first round.

“I’m pleased in certain ways,” said Gabos, who took North Hills to the WPIAL title game a year ago. “Coming into the season, we had to replace four guys who played almost every minute.

“And then, at the same time, I’m disappointed. We came in with pretty high hopes and hoped to go a little bit further than we did. … We felt like we had enough to win a title.”

The Indians won the Section 4-5A title and beat Kiski and Fox Chapel in the WPIAL postseason before falling to eventual champion Penn Hills, 67-51, in the semifinals.

North Hills, however, rebounded from that loss, topping Gateway in the WPIAL’s Class 5A consolation game, securing the district’s third spot in the PIAA playoffs.

But the Indians lost their first state playoff game to Mechanicsburg, 56-52, playing without their point guard, sophomore Zach Pollaro.

“We felt like we were good enough to win that game,” Gabos said. “And we thought, if we did, and we get (Pollaro) back, who knows what can happen?”

Once again, the Indians were paced by Division I recruit Royce Parham, a towering, 6-foot-8 forward ranked as high as the 70th overall junior recruit in the country. He scored over 29 points per game.

“The points didn’t surprise me,” said Gabos. “We had a little more balance last year and didn’t need him to score like we did this year. He really had a heck of a year and continues to improve in all areas.”

North Hills will have to replace four seniors who got playing time but will return much of its core as well.

Parham, of course, will highlight next year’s team in his senior season. But Pollaro, who got limited time as a freshman while playing behind a talented starting five, will look to build on his impressive sophomore campaign.

“He stepped in this year and basically played every minute of every game and scored around 14 points per game,” Gabos said. “The improvement from November to March was really impressive. He has a great approach. He takes the game really seriously. Winning is really important to him.”

In addition to Parham and Pollaro, North Hills will also bring back juniors Logan Johnson and Zach Pollaro’s older brother, Jake.

They also got a strong freshman year from Eric James, who battled injuries and illness but also scored 30 points as the Indians avenged their 2022 WPIAL title game loss against Fox Chapel in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

“I expect that, next year, he’ll really expand on those numbers,” Gabos said.

North Hills’ season, in many ways, was defined by close games. The Indians suffered five of their seven losses by seven points or less. But they also won 11 games by six points or less.

“We definitely didn’t play in a ton of blowouts,” said Gabos, whose team outscored opponents by 17 points per game, on average, a year prior. “Our games were really close.”

The Indians, at Gabos’ request, will take some time off — about six or seven weeks — before diving into their offseason schedule. The team hopes to play in the Philly Live High School Showcase event in the eastern side of the state — a chance to play against some of the nation’s best talent.

It will then turn its attention to its WPIAL season, one in which North Hills will enter as a favorite to win the WPIAL 5A title and one that Gabos hopes will finally end with gold medals and a trophy at the Petersen Events Center.

“Hopefully we just keep building,” he said. “We hope to be a little bit better next year.”

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