Pine-Richland looks to make another playoff run

Sunday, February 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The regular season didn’t go quite the way the Pine-Richland boys basketball team would’ve wanted, but it finds itself in a similar position to last year.

And everyone in the Rams locker room would like to have an encore to last postseason.

The Rams made a run to the WPIAL championship game as a No. 6 seed a season ago.

They’ll start the journey again as a No. 7 seed. They were to host No. 10 Bethel Park Tuesday in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

The winner advances to play at No. 2 Fox Chapel on Friday.

“We didn’t prove it in the regular season, so our seed is what it is and we’re not going to complain about that,” Pine-Richland coach Bob Petcash said. “The playoffs are a new season. You just have to play every quarter and try to keep proceeding. We’re going to be healthy going in, which we’re excited about. The second half of the season we had some of our key guys out. Now that they’re back we’re ready to make that push. We’re going to approach it the same way we did last year.”

Joey Dudkowski, who missed nearly month with an injury, is back and healthy, giving the Rams a boost in the starting lineup. Dudkowski was a big contributor in last year’s run. Josh Gimbel, who missed the entire regular season because of an ankle injury, is also ready to return, giving the Rams another weapon off the bench.

Along with Dudkowski, other key contributions to last year’s run such as Andrew Alexander, Jameson O’Toole, Luke Shanahan and Andy Swartout are back. All five and sixth-man Nate Zavasky are seniors.

“We’re not going to change much from what we do,” Petcash said. “We need to play spot-on ball, control possessions, control the pace of the game and we have to rebound. We have to defend well and we have to score. It’s basic basketball.”

The Rams finished 11-11 in the regular season, but six of those losses were by less than 10 points and five were by six or fewer. They’ve also had some tight victories with six of them having a margin of 10 points or fewer.

“We’ve had so many close games and all year we’ve been preaching all year lessons from those games where we lost by a bucket,” Petcash said. “We had three straight overtime games earlier in the season. Hopefully those tough, hard-fought games end up being a benefit in the playoffs.”

Pine-Richland did not face Bethel Park, but earned a 62-43 win over the Black Hawks in the regular season last year.

The Black Hawks finished 16-6 overall, but dropped their last three section games and finished in fourth in Section 2 at 5-5. They feature 6-foot-6 senior Dolan Waldo, and IUP commit.

“I know some of their personnel through AAU,” Petcash said. “They’re very talented and they have a good coach. They’re going to come and try to play their game and we can’t get away from Pine-Richland basketball. If everyone steps up and plays their role I think we can be successful.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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