Strong start vaults Penn-Trafford boys past rival Hempfield

Friday, January 12, 2018 | 10:55 PM

Penn-Trafford senior Sean Kelly set the tone for Friday’s boys basketball game early and often.

He scored six points in the opening quarter, including a steal and a layup at the buzzer to spark the Warriors to a 56-46 victory over Hempfield in a Section 3-6A contest at home.

Kelly finished with a game-high 20 points, 11 in the first half, for the Warriors.

The senior’s heady play at the end of the first quarter gave Penn-Trafford a 14-8 lead, and then baskets early in the second quarter by Kevin Stinelli and Kelly pushed the lead to 18-8.

Stinelli, a junior, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He was 6 for 6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to help preserve the win.

Penn-Trafford, which played a superb first half, led 30-14 at halftime. The Warriors were 14 for 27 from the field and committed only three turnovers.

“We did a good job taking command of the game,” Penn-Trafford coach Jim Rocco said. “It takes awhile for the winter sports teams to start playing well.

“Tonight we made plays and made our free throws. That’s key in games like this.”

Penn-Trafford (3-3, 6-8) also did a good job defensively. The Spartans turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and made only 4 of 17 attempts from the field.

Braden Brose led the Spartans (1-4, 4-9) with 15 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter, and Reed Hipps and Marcus McCarthy added nine each.

“We needed to play better in the first four or five minutes on the road,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “We dug too deep of a hole. This was a carbon-copy of the Fox Chapel game.

“The couple-minute lapses have been the story of our season. I was proud how we battled back and got their lead down to five with the possession.”

Hempfield started chipping away at Penn-Trafford’s 16-point lead in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 39-26.

The Spartans began the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run to trim the deficit to 41-36 as Justin Sliwoski (8 points), Brose and Shawn Wilson made key baskets.

Hempfield also forced Penn-Trafford to turn the ball over 10 times in the second half.

But the Warriors cashed in at the foul line in the fourth quarter, making 15 of 22 attempts, to preserve the win.

Zach Rocco, the coach’s son, was 4 for 6, and Kelly was 3 for 4.

“Kevin, Zach, Sean and Jordan (Sabol) hit key free throws for us,” Rocco said. “There were a couple times earlier this season that free throw shooting hurt us.

“We’re not stressing about making the playoffs right now. We just want to continue to make progress and keep transforming the program.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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