Pine-Richland boys take positives from season after frustrating playoff loss

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 11:24 PM

The Pine-Richland boys basketball team’s season was brought to a halt Feb. 22 as it was toppled by Upper St. Clair, 62-59, in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.

In the decisive contest at North Hills, the Rams (15-9, 7-3) scored 42 points in the first half and entered halftime with an eight-point lead. However, from there, it was all Panthers as coach Jeff Ackermann’s group found themselves mired in a shooting slump.

“For us, we played really well in the first half,” Ackermann said. “We scored a lot and got out to a lead. We just really struggled to score in the second half of that game. They didn’t press us as much in the second half, so it was mostly just us struggling in our half-court offense. We just didn’t shoot the ball well.

“I think it was kind of a microcosm of our season. We played a good team, we played them tough and led for 60-70% of the game, if not more, but we just weren’t quite good enough to get it done at the very end.”

While it wasn’t final result they hoped to achieve, the Rams still accomplished plenty. They finished second in a competitive Section 1-6A and bested Connellsville by 30 points in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

To add to that, Pine-Richland consistently challenged itself with a difficult nonsection schedule in an effort to sharpen its skills.

“The guys played hard all season long, and they played pretty well, overall,” Ackermann said. “I would put the schedule that we played this year, the full schedule with our nonsection games as well, up against any other team in the entire WPIAL. We played one of the hardest schedules out there.

“It was tough. We were hoping it would make us battle-tested so we could grind out those playoff wins. I think we succeeded in that we were battle-tested. We just struggled to score at the very end of our last game is all.”

Now, the program will graduate Logan Murray, Kyle Polce, Levi Wentz, Patrick Shanahan, Cam Kirkland and Jackson Sevco. Each of them, Ackermann said, brought their own inimitable talents to the table.

“It’s a very unique group,” he said. “They all had their own perspectives, and they all can do different things well. It’s a talented group of kids and a good group of kids, too. They were all successful in high school and having had the chance to get to know them over the last four years, I believe they’re all going to have success in the future beyond high school as well.”


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