Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week: Week ending Feb. 1, 2020
Monday, February 3, 2020 | 10:31 PM
Last week began with Hempfield tied for third place with Norwin in a crowded Section 3-6A, but the Spartans were only one game ahead of cellar dwellers Connellsville and Latrobe.
Two wins in a row might not sound like much of a streak, but it can make a huge difference when two games separate five teams.
The Spartans’ victories over Penn-Trafford and Connellsville not only moved them into sole possession of second place in the section, but it also clinched a Class 6A playoff berth.
“Our wins this week took a big weight off our shoulders,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “Our seniors have not gotten to enjoy and experience the playoffs. Now we can, and now we are going to battle for the best seed possible.”
After losing to Penn-Trafford earlier this season on the road by eight points, Hempfield held serve at home, beating the Warriors, 60-52.
“We really focused on stopping (Nick) Crum, (Josh) Kapcin, (Chase) Vecchio and (Ben) Myers, and we did,” Swan said. “We held Zach Rocco to nine points with about 7 minutes left, then he went bonkers, but the game was decided. We went from down 15-6 to up 31-15. Our defense has been great lately.”
The Spartans headed to Connellsville on Friday, and for the second time this season, took care of business against the Falcons with a 25-point win.
“We scored 24 last year at Connellsville. Shot 2 for 29 from (behind the) arc,” Swan said. “It was such a tough experience for us. We really prepared for their matchup zone. We got after them and pulled away.”
Hempfield finished fifth in the six-team Section 3-6A last season with only two section victories, so the turnaround has featured five section wins, 10 victories overall and a playoff berth. Ask Swan what the difference has been, and he gets defensive.
“Our defense is vastly improved. And we have been making shots. We don’t tell this to many people, but we feel we are just a few shots away from being 15-4 or 14-5.
“We’ve struggled on offense at times. Last year we ranked 18 of 18 in 6A in points scored but finished No. 1 in points against. This year, we are down to sixth in defense but up to ninth in offense. We really are trying to move the ball and move ourselves more and not live behind arc.
The Spartans don’t rely on one or two players.
“All seven of our guys have been solid,” Swan said. “Our two juniors, Christian Zilli and Michael Hosni, have been really good. Seniors Drew Coletta and Nic Suchko have been awesome and achieved so much. Blake Remaley finally is healthy and does so much for us. Mikey Gaffney and Marcus McCarthy are playing very well as Marcus has had some big games lately.”
This will be the Spartans’ first taste of Class 6A postseason boys basketball. The last time Hempfield reached the playoffs, they lost to Chartiers Valley in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA tournament.
Last year, Section 3 teams were a combined 1-4. Swan feels there pressure on the section this postseason.
“We have to perform in the tourney, for sure,” he said. “People say we don’t get respect, but I’ve done this for so long, it’s easy to say that respect is earned, not just given.”
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