Penn-Trafford boys get off to fast start with victory over Greensburg CC

Friday, December 8, 2017 | 9:57 PM

Sean Kelly grabbed the basketball in the paint, and with no defenders around, he decided to try for the dunk.

He had the height, but he couldn’t quite finish the jam. But he can explain why.

“It kind of slipped out of my hands,” the Penn-Trafford senior guard said. “That was a fluke. There were some jitters tonight. I won’t miss the next one.”

Fair enough.

The missed slam didn’t matter much in the end because Penn-Trafford had a safe cushion by then. The Warriors looked sharp from end-to-end, led by Kelly and his backcourt teammates, in a 71-41 opening-night win over Greensburg Central Catholic on Friday in the Hempfield tip-off tournament.

Kelly missed five games with a high-ankle sprain last season, so he is looking forward to playing the full schedule. The opener was a good start, as he tied junior teammate Kevin Stinelli with 15 points. The Warriors built an 18-point lead at halftime and stretched it to 30 in the third.

“We came out with so much energy,” Kelly said. “It was nice to experience that winning feeling (in the first game). Our guards played well, but so did our big guys.”

Junior 6-foot-4 forward Brayden Puskar added 12 points, and sophomore Zach Rocco had 10.

Puskar, who had his way getting drives to the rim, scored on an up-and-under layup to make it 59-27 late in the third.

GCC, a drastically different-looking team from last year’s 25-2 group that was leveled by graduation, might need some time to find its identity.

“It’s just tough right now trying to do the things we want to,” first-year coach Jim Nesser said. “We’re not there yet. I think the biggest issue is that we’re not gritty enough. We were better tonight than we were last week, though, so that is a positive.”

Junior Max Pisula scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter, when GCC was within 17-13.

But an 11-0 run helped spur the Warriors to a double-digit lead they never relinquished.

Kelly and Stinelli combined for 21 points in the first half to equal GCC’s total.

“Sean Kelly is one of the best guards in Western Pennsylvania,” Warriors coach Jim Rocco said. “He is a coach’s son, and you can see that when he plays.”

Strong perimeter defense allowed the Warriors to take control.

“Our guys have developed. They’re more athletic, and their basketball IQ has grown immensely,” coach Rocco said. “Our kids have gotten older and grown up.

“We played hard, and I was impressed with our footwork. We stayed in front of the ball well and didn’t foul a lot on the perimeter.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or vis Twitter @BillBeckner.

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