Pine-Richland boys expect to be solid despite graduation losses

Sunday, November 26, 2017 | 11:15 PM

Part of why the Pine-Richland boys basketball team rattled off 28 wins on its way to a WPIAL Class 6A championship last season was the balance of talent between the frontcourt and backcourt.

Now, after graduating seven players, striking a similar equilibrium might be a challenge as the Rams prepare for their regular season, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Upper St. Clair.

Phil Jurkovec, a 1,000-point scorer, and Andrew Kristofic will be returning to eat up rebounds for coach Jeff Ackermann once football season ends. In addition to the two experienced post players, junior Greg Shulkosky also returns to man the point guard spot once the Rams are finished with the PIAA playoffs.

It would be difficult to ask any player to pick up the production that Trib Terrific 10 player Andrew Petcash (21 ppg), who graduated, but Ackermann said he is confident Shulkosky and another player with a familiar last name might be able to bring balance to the lineup.

“Greg will run the one for us, and Dan Petcash will run the two,” Ackermann said. “Dan was spectacular for us during the whole offseason. He's about 6-foot-4 now, and he was about 6-1 last year.

“He really grew in the offseason. He can dunk the ball. He can do a lot of different things with those long arms. I just think he's a guy that is going to have a great next two years.”

Petcash, a junior, will be joined by junior Colin Luellen and sophomore Kyle Polce in the guard rotation. The two are new contributors to varsity, Ackermann said, but they bring a promising blend of determination and talent.

“Last year, Colin was about 6-1 and now he's 6-3, and he does a lot of different things with the long arms that he's got,” Ackermann said. “He's going to see a lot of minutes for us this year, and he's just a kid that works all year long on his game.

“Kyle is another guard, and he's highly skilled. He's a very good player. He'll be surprising people this year. He's probably not going to come out and dominate because he's just a sophomore, but I think he's going to be a kid to keep an eye on.”

The team's frontcourt, behind Andrew Kristofic, Jurkovec and senior Sebastian Kosanovich, might appear to be its strength, with group's overall size and proven abilities. That doesn't mean Pine-Richland is planning on changing the way it plays.

A slowed-down, half-court offense that emphasizes post-up play might not be in the plans for now. Ackermann said the team wants to get out and push the pace the same way it did last season.

“We're going to play fast. We're going to try to really get going,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can handle and shoot, so we're going to do our best to play as up-tempo as we can. Right now, it looks great against JV guys, but once we get into competition, it might look a little different.

“We want to do what we did last year as far as the tempo goes. Actually, I'd even like to increase the tempo. But we'll see if we're able to do that. We want to play fast, but we want to be under control.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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