Rebuilding plan has Cheswick Christian boys ready to contend again

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 8:25 PM

When 6-foot-10 Ben Pollock finished his Cheswick Christian Academy boys basketball career in 2016-17 after rewriting much of the school’s record book, longtime Chargers coach Todd Rosio had a three-year plan to build the team back up to contending status.

The Chargers have arrived at Year 3 of that plan.

After some growing pains the last two years as a young team, Rosio believes the experience gained paired with a balanced attack will be a potent formula.

“This should be the best team of the ones we’ve had the last three years,” said Rosio, who is entering his 26th season as Chargers coach. “I don’t know if we’re back to a level of when Ben Pollock was there, because 6-foot-10 guys don’t grow on trees, but this should be the best team we’ve had since he moved on. We only lost one guy and everyone that returned got older, wiser and stronger.”

Cheswick Christian returns four starters from a team that lost in the first round of the Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference playoffs last season.

Josiah Ivanov was the team’s lone graduate.

The Chargers have a senior backcourt tandem of Jerry Vargo and Andrew Drake. Vargo, the point guard, was the team’s leading scorer last year. Jesse Radvansky, a junior, led the team in rebounds and will be a presence in the paint. Vargo and Radvansky were all-conference players a year ago.

The trio provides balance and matchup problems as any of them has the potential to break out in any given game.

“I think there will be a few different guys that will have their share of big games,” Rosio said. “I hope they take turns in doing so. I don’t think we’re looking for one person to dominate. We’re looking to share the ball, share the scoring, share the rebound and have everybody do their part on defense.”

Kassius Clay, a junior, returns to the lineup, and sophomore Zooky Malloy is a forward who saw some starting time last year.

Zooky is the youngest of the Malloy brothers who have been coming through the Chargers program the last decade.

“He has a different kind of game. His older brothers had a speed game, and he’s more of an inside guy,” Rosio said. “He’s bigger than his brothers.”

The rest of the rotation for the Chargers is still in the process of working itself out, but Rosio likes the depth his team has.

“I think we have some guys that will be able to contribute off the bench and find their roles,” Rosio said. “I don’t think we’ll have to rely on our starting five. We could get contributions from 10 or 12 people.”

The Chargers open with a nonsection game Dec. 5 at Mt. Carmel Christian and open conference play with a home game Dec. 9 at Penn State New Kensington against the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Portersville Christian and Cornerstone Prep advanced to the SWCAC final last year, and Rosio looks at those two as favorites again. If things go to plan, though, the Chargers could put themselves in the conversation as contenders.

“Hopefully, if we add up all our individual contributions, we’ll be able to go somewhere,” Rosio said. “Two years ago we missed the playoffs, and last year we snuck in. This year, we hope to make the playoffs and do something with it. How far we go remains to be seen, but their sights are set higher than last year.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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