TribHSSN boys basketball team of the week: South Allegheny

Monday, December 16, 2019 | 10:33 PM

Last year, South Allegheny ended December with a 3-6 record and began 2019 with nine losses in eleven games to finish 6-15 overall and tied in the basement of Section 3-3A.

What a difference a year makes.

The Gladiators have nearly matched their win total from a year ago in the first week and a half of this season.

Two opening weekend tournament wins followed by three more last week has South Allegheny off to a 5-0 start.

Gladiators coach Anthony DiCenzo believes his team’s health is a big reason for the early turnaround.

“Last year our two best players, Antonio Epps and Austin Matczak, got injured early in the season and I believe we played about six to eight games without them both, so we were forced to play a lot of freshmen in those spots.

“Once we were fully healthy, we were able to be competitive in just about every game, as I believe we lost eight games by less than 10 points.”

Another factor DiCenzo believes is working in the Gladiators’ favor this year is the team’s work ethic in the offseason.

“This group has been the most dedicated group of players that I have coached in my eight seasons at South Allegheny,” he said. “We played 20 games this past spring and summer, and that really helped with our growth and maturity as a team.”

After winning the West Mifflin tournament, South Allegheny beat South Park and Charleroi last week in nonsection tune-ups.

“We got out to a big lead in the South Park game, then they battled back to take the lead late and we were able to force overtime and go on to win,” DiCenzo said. It was a nice test for our young group to face some adversity and battle back and overcome it and win the game.

“Each of our nonsection games have been against quality opponents so far, so to get out to a 4-0 start was big for our guys’ confidence heading into section play.”

Section 3-3A play tipped off Friday for the Gladiators as they hit the road and picked up a 21-point victory at Deer Lakes.

“Anytime you go on the road in section play, it is going to be a challenge,” DiCenzo said. “For us to start out against Deer Lakes, the defending section champs, and come out with a commanding victory was a huge first step for us in believing we could play with the better teams in our section.”

Juniors Omar Faulkner and Antonio Epps have led South Allegheny. They are both averaging 17 points per game and Omar is averaging 12 rebounds and four blocks per game as well. Freshman Bryce Epps has stepped into the starting point guard role and has done an excellent job thus far.

“It has really been a group effort for us so far this year,” DiCenzo said. “In each of our games, we have had someone different step up and contribute to our success.”

Nobody expects South Allegheny to go undefeated, but DiCenzo and his players are enjoying the early success and hope it continues well into the new year.

“It has been really gratifying for me to see how the kids have responded to this early success,” he said. “This group is focused on the bigger picture and is looking to accomplish things that haven’t been done at South Allegheny for some time now. I’m excited for what the future holds for SA basketball.”


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