North Hills boys basketball staying focused despite impressive start

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Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Buzz Gabos is cautiously optimistic.

Gabos, coach of the North Hills boys basketball team, led the Indians to a 12-0 record through Jan. 18, with a 6-0 mark in Section 1-6A.

North Hills has not just won, but has been dominant in most matchups, outscoring opponents by more than 25 points per game. But the impressive beginning doesn’t mean Gabos is complacent.

“We’ve played really, really well at times against some good opponents,” he said. ‘We’ve had some lapses in some games, too, where we’re trying to stress 32 minutes, not 24 or 26.

“Overall, the effort is really good, and the chemistry is really good. We’re trying to stay consistent and improve.”

Gabos admits, for a team that has won all of its games — many by lopsided margins — that staying locked in can be a test.

“You try to remind them that, day to day, you’ve got to come in,” he said. “We’re not getting any days off with any games that we’re playing, so we’re just trying to find ways to simulate game situations and keep them competitive with one another. We’re trying to make sure we get something out of practice each day. And then take it onto the floor.

“If we’re not ready to go, they’re going to get us. You’ve got to be ready from the jump.”

One thing that has helped the Indians to a strong start in section play has been a challenging nonsection schedule. North Hills has racked up wins over powerful WPIAL programs such as Fox Chapel, Chartiers Valley, Hampton, Montour and Hempfield, as well as Perry from the Pittsburgh City League.

With the exception of Montour, a 78-61 win, each nonsection game was a 30-plus point victory for North Hills.

“We have played some good teams, and we still have some more,” Gabos said. “We still have to play Mars, Shaler, Allderdice and Upper St. Clair. At the 6A level, you really have to challenge yourself in those games. Because, if you don’t, it doesn’t prepare you to come back into the section.”

In the section, the Indians have won comfortably in all but two games. North Hills beat rival North Allegheny, 69-59, and topped Pine-Richland, 78-74.

At the center of the wins has been steady play from 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Royce Parham, one of the WPIAL’s top underclassmen who already has an offer from Robert Morris and plenty of interest from others.

“He’s been good at both ends,” Gabos said of Parham, who is averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds per game. “Teams have tried to do some different things to take him away, and he’s just stayed patient with what we want to do. But he’s been a factor at both ends, and he’ll have to be. He just has to stay consistent and keep doing what he’s doing.”

Alex Smith, a 6-3 senior guard, has been impressive through the first half of the year, averaging 20 points per game.

“He’s had some big nights offensively and done some good things defensively,” Gabos added. “We’re trying to keep him locked in and realizing that every night is a different challenge for our guys.”

Will Blass and Matt Seidl also have been big contributors for an Indians team that has been able to go eight players deep most nights.

“We’ve gotten good minutes from all eight,” Gabos said. “They’ve all settled into doing their thing and are staying unselfish. The balance is important. We’re getting as many as six guys in double figures some nights. That’s hard to deal with if you’re an opponent.”

The back half of the season will provide good competition. The Indians are now the hunted, sitting atop the standings and the rankings in WPIAL Class 6A. There will be marquee nonsection games, and, in section, the likes of Pine-Richland and North Allegheny will look to upend the section’s top squad.

“We always stress to the guys, this is why you do it,” Gabos said. “You go on the road, and they’re hollering and screaming at you. How well do you hold up to it?

“If you have plans of making a run at the end of the season here and into the playoffs, these are the types of atmospheres and games that you have to respond in. And hopefully you show up.”

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