Steel Valley team effort leads to win over East Allegheny

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 10:50 PM

Steel Valley guard Cam Polak is the second-leading scorer in the WPIAL, averaging 32 points per game.

Polak did not hit his average on Tuesday, but the Ironmen got by with a little help from Cam’s friends.

The senior did score a game-high 27 points, but Steel Valley (7-3, 11-6) got points from seven other players in a 63-53 victory over visiting East Allegheny (4-5, 9-9).

“When they’re doubling Cam and trying to take Cam out of the game, their daring somebody else on our team to score,” Steel Valley coach Dale Chapman said. “Shane (Reagan) hit a couple from the corner and Evan (Kostelnik) hit one and that takes people out of their defense because now they have to chase us.”

Polak was held in check for three quarters, limited to 15 points while Steel Valley and East Allegheny were tied 38-38.

Then the Ironmen’s pressure defense started paying off.

After finishing strong in the third quarter, Steel Valley forced three straight East Allegheny turnovers and took control of the game with eight unanswered points.

“That’s what (the full court press) is designed to do,” Chapman said. “We want to wear them down and make them make turnovers. Wear them down, the legs get a little weaker and the jump shots come up short.”

Helping wear down their opponents is a strategy Chapman began in the first meeting at East Allegheny, a Wildcats’ one-point victory.

Right around the midway point of the quarter, Chapman will sub four of his starters out for four fresh players, leaving only Polak out on the floor.

“We’ve been doing it the last couple of games,” Chapman said. “Fortunately, we were able to get some points from them.”

The game was close throughout the first three quarters, with East Allegheny leading by five points after one quarter the three points at the half.

But sloppy play by the Wildcats and big-time pressure by the Ironmen turned the game quickly and decisively late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.

Junior Nico Pugliano scored 15 points to lead East Allegheny, but was held to only five points in the second half. Sophomore Michael Smith added 14 points for the Wildcats, who fall into a tie for fourth place in Section 3-3A with Shady Side Academy.

Steel Valley is in second place in the section, a game and a half in front of Deer Lakes. The Ironmen visit the Lancers on Friday.

“They’re battling for second place, so that’s going to be a very big game,” Chapman said. “They’re looking forward to the challenge and so are we.”

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