Shaler boys basketball intent on breaking through playoff barrier

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Sunday, November 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Brandon London was forced to sit out last basketball season when a football injury relegated him to the sidelines.

As London’s shoulder healed, he and his Shaler boys basketball teammates were all focused on a common goal: getting past the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

Last season, the Titans didn’t meet that threshold. At Shaler, it’s not an experience many of its boys basketball teams have had. Titans coach Rob Niederberger said only three teams in Titans history have reached the semifinals. None of them has broken through to the WPIAL finals.

Last season, Shaler finished 14-10 overall, falling in the WPIAL quarterfinals to New Castle and in the PIAA first round to Hershey.

“We talk about it all the time,” London said. “We’re going to break down that barrier. We have to play non-selfish basketball, not worry about stats, play for each other and play to win. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re focused on winning, not about scoring double-digit points.”

Shaler will also not have much of a margin for error this season. The Titans will be in Section 2-5A with Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Plum and Woodland Hills.

The Foxes are the defending WPIAL Class 6A champions, while Penn Hills reached the state quarterfinals last season.

“It’s definitely changed the landscape,” Niederberger said. “To prepare, we tried to do all the offseason stuff where we went to leagues and played the best competition. When we practice, there’s a certain level of expectation and energy we expect every day. Those are the things you can control.”

One thing Shaler knows it can count on is a roster full of players with varsity experience. The Titans have eight juniors returning who have all contributed on varsity since their freshman season. Kaden Orga is Shaler’s leading returning scorer after averaging around 10 points per game last season.

London said the Titans’ physical maturation is present with this group of players.

“Definitely our freshman year we got pushed around a little bit,” London said. “We were younger and less developed. We’ll be pushing kids around this year. We want to be the bullies on the court and be pushing people around.”

Niederberger is comfortable knowing what each player can do on the court. It’s a nice feeling for a program that is hoping to keep climbing up the WPIAL ladder.

This Titans team can do a lot of different things well, including playing fast or slowing things down when needed.

“There is familiarity the boys have in the system and with what our identity is,” Niederberger said. “There are some new wrinkles to add as they grow and get bigger. But with these guys, they come in from fall sports and go. We don’t have to teach them new stuff. It’s all about refreshing their knowledge.”

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