Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for week ending March 7, 2021

Monday, March 8, 2021 | 10:39 AM

When the WPIAL playoff brackets were released in boys Class 3A, an Ellwood City team that finished strong with four straight wins and was tied for second in the deep Section 1-3A was the No. 11 seed.

After preliminary- and first-round wins, were the Wolverines disrespected with a double-digit seed?

“No disrespect,” Ellwood City coach Steve Antuono said. “We really just got back to work once we found out who we were playing. We started to prepare, and it was really out of our control.”

Huge success in the preliminary round was in their control as the Wolverines dismantled Valley, 72-20.

“Very pleased,” Antuono said of his team’s efforts. “We came out of the gate quickly and played hard. We played very unselfish basketball and did what we needed to do in order to advance.”

The next hurdle would be a little tougher to clear.

Visiting Ellwood City came out flying against No. 6-seeded Avonworth in their first-round clash. The Wolverines led by 10 points after one quarter and enjoyed a 30-18 advantage at halftime.

“The quick start was huge,” Antuono said. “Avonworth was a very good team, strong and physical. The quick start helped us hang on and finish the game. Our section prepared us for games like that.”

When the Antelopes came out flying in the second half and took a two-point lead at the end of the third quarter, a lot of teams on the road would have wilted. Ellwood City instead outscored Avonworth, 17-10, in the final quarter to claim a 58-53 upset.

“We switched defenses several times, and our kids made plays,” Antuono said. “From handling the press, to taking care of the basketball and making foul shots, our kids showed confidence and toughness against adversity.“

In both games, the Wolverines were led in scoring by the trio of juniors Steve Antuono Jr. and Alex Roth, along with his freshman brother Joey Roth, who scored 33 points in the Valley win.

“They have been consistent all season,” Antuono said. “All of them are unselfish and it shows. It’s a credit to our success this year. They feed off of one another.”

The Wolverines are now 11-4 heading into the Class 3A quarterfinals. Antuono feels his team has a lot of confidence after two playoff wins.

“Our confidence is high,” Antuono said. “We have been battle-tested and have grown as a team. I hate to keep saying this, but when kids don’t care who’s scoring, that is a big reason why we are winning. Our guys have played their roles well and believe in themselves. I couldn’t be prouder to see them play as a team together.”

On Monday in the quarterfinals, Ellwood City squares off against No. 3 Shady Side Academy at Fox Chapel.

“It’s never easy,” Antuono said. “We will prepare as always and continue with our game prep. Shady Side Academy is a great team. They have been talked about all season and their record shows. Hopefully, we can stay the course and continue this magical season.”

2021 Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week:

Week 7 – Sewickley Academy Panthers

Week 6 – Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions

Week 5 – Gateway Gators

Week 4 – Frazier Commodores

Week 3 – Shady Side Academy Bulldogs

Week 2 – Fox Chapel Foxes

Week 1 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars


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