Pine-Richland basketball welcomes back Andrew Kristofic in time for the WPIAL playoffs

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Monday, January 29, 2018 | 5:18 PM


Andrew Kristofic didn't need a basket or even a rebound to draw a warm cheer from Pine-Richland's home crowd.

All he needed was to stand up from the bench and enter the game.

His availability was a surprise to most.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound junior was likely to miss the entire season with a thumb injury from football. That injury could have needed surgery and sidelined him for basketball, but a second opinion allowed him play Friday for the first time with a protective wrap on his hand.

“We found out a couple of weeks ago and kind of kept it under our hat,” Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann said. “We really didn't want to say much until we saw him practice. He practiced a couple of days, looked really good and his dad was OK with him playing limited minutes.”

Kristofic had nine points in Friday's last-second loss to Butler, and scored 12 Sunday when Pine-Richland defeated Ambridge. He was an important inside presence for the Rams a year ago when they won the WPIAL Class 6A title and finished as state runners-up in Hershey.

He rejoins the lineup at a good time for Pine-Richland (14-4, 6-2), which had four games left before the playoffs. The Rams, ranked third in Class 6A, travel Tuesday to Central Catholic (10-6, 8-1), which leads Section 1.

“He's going to work his way back into it,” Ackermann said. “Andrew hadn't played a basketball game since the state championship, which was nine months ago. He can only play limited minutes right now because he's not in shape. Hopefully, he'll get better and can be more aggressive.”

Kristofic, an offensive tackle, ranks among the WPIAL's top football recruits. He added scholarship offers this month from Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Temple to a list that already included Pitt, West Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and others.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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