Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for Feb. 7, 2022

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Monday, February 7, 2022 | 7:20 PM


They are the poster child of every darkhorse high school basketball team when the playoffs tip off.

The incredible run of the Ellwood City boys basketball team last season should be an inspiration to many come next week.

Last year, the Wolverines finished tied for second in their section and they were given they No. 11 seed in the Class 3A tournament. Five wins later, they were hoisting district gold.

This season, Ellwood City won’t sneak up on anybody. They are on their way to the outright Section 1-3A championship, they’ve won 14 straight, and they’ll be one of the favorites when the WPIAL postseason begins.

“I tried to make the nonsection games very competitive games for us this year,” Ellwood City coach Steve Antuono said. “We needed to be battle tested. Those early losses helped us go on a section run. Sometimes you learn from a loss more than a win. I believe that was the case with our team early on. After those losses, we looked at what we could all do better, myself included.”

The Wolverines’ latest two wins came last week and started with a rare Sunday afternoon contest. Ellwood City participated in the PBC Classic at Montour and went up against Sto-Rox.

“To be honest, I’m not really a fan of afternoon Saturday or Sunday games,” Antuono said. “It’s just a different atmosphere than a normal Tuesday and Friday night game. However, it’s an honor to be asked to play with the best of the best. It’s where you want your program to be, for sure, moving forward. It’s a game we wanted to play to see how we would do against a strong Sto-Rox team that has great athletes and a very solid program.”

Ellwood City jumped out to an early lead and led by 14 points by halftime. The Roth brothers, senior Alexander and sophomore Joseph, each scored 23 points as the Wolverines won, 82-60.

“What stood out the most to me was our ability to stay unselfish and play solid, team basketball,” Antuono said.

On Tuesday, Ellwood City hosted second-place Neshannock, a team that was looking to avenge a 22-point loss at home last month to the Wolverines.

“Every game is a challenge in itself,” Antuono said. “The key to our Neshannock game was really about trying to play four great defensive quarters and contesting all shots.”

Ellwood City took control on defense in the second quarter by outscoring Neshannock 15-3 to take a commanding 24-8 lead in to the half in what would be a 19-point victory over the Lancers to secure a share of the section title.

Between the Roth brothers and the coach’s son, senior Steve Antuono, the Wolverines have a terrific trio that few have been able to slow down. However, coach Antuono says it’s more like a fearsome foursome leading the way for EC.

“These three guys have been leaders all year, but more importantly all last spring and summer,” he said. “I also need to add Milo Sesti in the conversation with Joe, Alexander and Steve. Milo is every bit a part of this and as important as anybody. These four kids have game experience, leadership skills and are unselfish. They believe in one another and that’s hard to teach. They understand the importance and what their roles are. Each of them adds so many different attributes to the team and winning.”

Antuono also mentioned the contributions of seniors Anthony Spadafore, Caden Crixer and Peyton O’Brien, who have stepped up and played solid minutes when called upon.

Because of the weather, the Wolverines will have one week between games with a couple of those days spent away from the gym.

“Sometimes it’s good to get away from it and out of the gym for a day or two,” Antuono said. “The snow and ice kept us out of the gym, and then when we got back together, we were fresh and excited to get back at trying to finish our section games out and see where the journey will take us.”

The Wolverines finish section play this week with games against Mohawk, Beaver Falls and Laurel. Ellwood City needs just one more win to clinch the section championship outright.

“We are looking to win the section and achieve the school’s first-ever Class 3A basketball section title,” Antuono said. “It’s been a goal of ours since we started the season. We want to continue to play solid defense and be unselfish on offense. Like any coach, the goal at this time of the year is to stay healthy and play your best basketball when it counts.”

2022 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 6 – Freeport Yellowjackets

Week 5 – Baldwin Highlanders

Week 4 – Penn Hills Indians

Week 3 Carlynton Cougars

Week 2 – North Hills Indians

Week 1 – Cornell Raiders

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