Pine-Richland boys hoping to sneak up on Class 6A competition

Saturday, December 2, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Pine-Richland boys basketball team is in a position to surprise some people, and it’s an opportunity that’s being embraced.

After a rare playoff miss last year, a young Rams team is energized, hungry and ready to get back on track in what should be an extremely competitive Section 1-6A.

“We learned a lot from last season,” Pine-Richland coach Bob Petcash said. “The younger guys started to realize that playing 6A basketball in our section is a very strong and physical game. All of our young guys worked hard in the offseason to improve their skill sets. I’m excited to see how it all comes together. I think we can win some games that we may not be expected to win.”

The Rams graduated three senior starters but return point guard Emery Moye.

Moye, a junior, averaged 12 points per game last season. Vasilios Balouris, a senior, got some starting time at the end of the year. Balouris, JL Aiello and Eli Wentz recently returned to basketball after helping the Rams football team reach the WPIAL Class 5A championship game.

Petcash said each of the returning football players brings a lot of grit and adds competitiveness and good energy to the gym for practices.

All three are expected to play key minutes.

Senior guard Carson Baer made strides in all phases of the game over the offseason and is expected to be a big contributor.

The younger core includes sophomores Eli Catalano, Doolin Stober and Grant Spacciapolli.

Petcash was pleased with how the team performed in scrimmages against South Fayette and Hickory.

They’ll look to keep it going heading into the regular season.

“We kept stressing all offseason that we have to be really tough and we have to defend,” Petcash said. “We’re not going to be a very long, big team this year, so it’s going to be imperative that we get up and guard and play really tough in all aspects of the game. I think we can do that. From a coaching standpoint, I’m going to try to put all the guys in a good position to be successful. We’ll give them the canvas. They have to paint it.”

The Rams will have a newly renovated gym to play in. They were scheduled to start the season on the road at Highlands on Dec. 5 before home opener the next night against Shaler.

“They did an excellent job, and I think it’s going to be a really nice venue for all the visitors and fans to watch basketball,” Petcash said. “They did a great job with all the little details. We’re excited to play in the gym. It’s awesome.”

The Rams will try to start a new playoff streak after their 10-year postseason run ended. To do so, they’ll have to finish in the top four in Section 1, which also houses Butler, Central Catholic, New Castle, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley.

Central Catholic beat New Castle in last year’s WPIAL final. Butler is a preseason favorite for the WPIAL title.

Pine-Richland beat the Golden Tornado, 76-72, in last season’s section finale.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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