Pine-Richland boys basketball team jells in coach’s 1st season

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Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 9:01 AM


The last time the WPIAL had an open basketball tournament in 1984 Bob Petcash was a senior at Ambridge and played for a Bridgers team that made the Class 4A final, where it lost to Farrell.

Now, 37 years later, Petcash will enter his first WPIAL tournament as a coach with a Pine-Richland team he feels is peaking at the right time.

The sixth-seeded Rams ran off seven wins in nine games late in the season and were to host No. 11 Peters Township in the first round 6 p.m. Tuesday. Results of that game were too late for this edition.

The WPIAL opted for an open tournament for all classifications because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which means all 17 Class 6A boys teams are in the tournament.

It’s a wide-open field with plenty of strong teams, and Petcash said his players have grown throughout the year and will be ready for the challenge.

“Our goal was to jell and have really good chemistry by the end of February,” Petcash said. “Once we get into the tournament, we have to play the opponent we have and stay true to ourselves. We have to play Pine-Richland basketball and not worry about all the other moving parts.

“It’s exciting to play in a tournament like this. It’s nice to have some home games. It’ll be fun.”

For Petcash, playing Pine-Richland basketball has several key tenets, including controlling the pace, limiting turnovers and playing stout man-to-man defense.

With Petcash’s son Joe Petcash as the lone returning starter and some new philosophies, there was a meshing period. But with players like Joey Dudkowski, Luke Shanahan, Andrew Alexander, Jameson O’Toole, and Dylan Serafini among others ready to step in, Petcash knew it was a matter of time before it all came together.

“I’ve been in the program for six years as an assistant prior to this year, so I’ve around these guys,” Petcash said. “They’re year-round basketball players, and I know what their skill sets are. It became a matter of being able to compete at this level when the lights were on, and they’ve done a really good job of doing that. It’s what I expected. I expect us to win. I expect us to play hard and compete every game.”

After starting 2-3, Pine-Richland earned two wins over Seneca Valley, splits with Butler and North Allegheny and wins over North Hills, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park.

The win over Section 1 champion North Allegheny was a 73-47 triumph Feb. 19, two weeks after a 56-48 loss. Pine-Richland finished second in the section standings, but securing that victory over the Tigers was a big boost heading into the postseason.

The Rams found their rhythm and began their quest for a third WPIAL title and first since going back-to-back in 2016-17.

“They’ve had to learn what we wanted our identity to be, and the kids really bought into what our staff is trying to do. The kids have confidence in our system. They can just play now and not think, which is huge,” Petcash said. “We want them to play basketball and not be robots. The kids are really accomplishing that, and everyone is stepping up for their role. All 14 players know their role. That was our big discussion at practice (last week) was that everyone has to be laser focused and know their role.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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