Springdale boys riding high at 7-1, but Dynamos more concerned with strong finish

Thursday, December 28, 2023 | 3:39 PM

With two wins this weekend at the Aquinas Academy holiday tournament, the Springdale boys basketball team can equal its win total from last season at nine before ringing in the new year.

It’s been a great start for a senior-heavy Dynamos team with a 7-1 record, with all those wins coming in nonsection games, but now the challenge will be to parlay that into getting results in a difficult Section 3-2A.

Once the calendar turns to January, section games with Riverview, Serra Catholic, Leechburg, Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic and Clairton await.

“We’ve played some good teams and had results in nonsection, but our section is a grind every single night,” Springdale coach Kobe Phillippi said. “It’s great to do well in nonsection, but section play is what you play for. It’s what it’s all about. In section is where the competition heats up and the playoff push begins. We’re 7-1, which is great, but we’re 0-1 in section.”

That one section loss was a 69-56 setback at Clairton on Dec. 15.

Outside of that, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

The Dynamos have wins over Valley, Harvest Baptist, St. Joseph, Environmental Charter, California, Cornell and Cheswick Christian. Each of them, outside of Cheswick Christian, was by more than 20 points. They beat the Chargers by 16.

There are layers to what’s led to the success.

Experience is a key. Springdale returned all five starters from last year, and all of them are seniors.

John Hughes is the leading scorer. Hughes is the reigning Valley News Dispatch baseball player of the year, and his athletic future is on the diamond at Allegheny, but he’s shown to be strong on the basketball court, as well.

“He’s always been a good shooter, but, over the past year, he’s been developing into a player that can get to the rim more and not just shoot from the outside,” Phillippi said. “I think the biggest difference in him is his energy and attitude on defense. He’s one of our best defenders, and his offensive numbers speak for themselves. Sometimes they work together. He gets some easy buckets because he’s battling on defense and stealing a ball that leads to a layup.”

Mason Gent, Jackson Pribanic and Chase Weihrauch have scored in double digits regularly. Billy Lawrence, the 2023 Valley News Dispatch boys soccer player of the year, has been distributing the ball well as the point guard.

The Dynamos have scored more than 60 points in five of their eight games.

That is a significant uptick on last year’s production, but it goes hand in hand with how well they’ve performed defensively.

Springdale has held opponents to 45 points or less six times.

Phillippi credited assistant coaches Perry Harrop and Jared Konop, as well as previous assistant Rich Griffin, with helping the team become more sound defensively.

The way the coaching staff runs is in the model of a football staff with offensive and defensive coordinators. Phillippi focuses on offense concepts, while his assistants create defensive game plans.

It’s all come together well.

“I think our defense has been so good that it leads to good offense,” Phillippi said. “Whenever you win the turnover battle, it normally leads to a good result. The other big thing is we’re playing selfless on offense. We don’t care who scores or the individual numbers. We just worry about the scoreboard.”

Springdale missed the playoffs last year and was knocked out by Sto-Rox in the first round two seasons ago, so many of the players are searching for their first playoff win.

Getting back to the playoffs is obviously the first goal, and there’s motivation to go out on a high note.

“These guys know it’s their last year,” Phillippi said. “We have one or two guys on the team that play a spring sport, so, for a lot of our guys, it’s the last time they’ll wear a Springdale uniform, and they are definitely not taking that lightly.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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