Uniontown boys basketball adds to WPIAL record with 48th section title
Monday, February 4, 2019 | 6:45 PM
Thanks to an impressive 10-game winning streak, Uniontown (14-3, 8-0) has soared to the top of the Section 3-4A boys basketball standings and clinched the section title.
The Red Raiders have won a WPIAL-record 48 section championships in boys basketball.
“We felt we could be pretty good and fight for a section title. The goal was to win the section this year,” Uniontown’s veteran coach Rob Kezmarsky said. ”We have a hard-working, very dedicated team. We play very hard as a team, and we want to continue to improve as a team.
“It means a lot to the players to contribute to the banner.”
The Red Raiders have lost only once to a WPIAL opponent this season, falling to Class 6A Hempfield, 55-49, in their second game on the schedule.
The other two defeats took place Dec. 27-28 in the Snowball Holiday Tournament at Southern Garrett High School in Maryland.
Uniontown posted a 9-0 record in January, and tipped off this month with a 57-50 nonsection win against rival Laurel Highlands.
“Defense and rebounding have been key for us,” said Kezmarsky, who has won eight section titles in his 17 years as Uniontown’s coach and achieved his 250th career victory this season.
The Red Raiders are junior-dominated squad; five juniors make up the starting lineup. The varsity roster consists of two seniors, eight juniors and sophomore backcourt prospect Caleb Palumbo.
The catalyst on offense is 5-foot-10 guard Billy DeShields, who ranks among the WPIAL’s leading scorers with a 21.7 ppg average.
DeShields netted 27 points in the Red Raiders’ section-clinching 72-57 win Jan. 29 at Ringgold. He peppered in a career-high 30 points Jan. 22 in his team’s 72-52 victory at South Park.
“I think we’re doing well, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement to make moving forward,” DeShields said. “We trust each other because we’ve been playing (together) since junior high, we have a good chemistry.
“Our expectations at the beginning of the season were to win the section and go for the WPIAL championship.”
Two other players, 6-4 forward Isaiah Melvin and 5-10 guard Jahmere Richardson, average in double figures at 10.7 and 10.6 ppg. Ray Robinson (8.8 ppg), a 5-10 junior guard, and Bryant Grady (6.4 ppg), a 6-1 junior forward, round out the Red Raiders’ starting five.
Grady (10 rpg), Melvin (9 rpg) and reserve Andre Ashe (8 rpg), a 6-3 senior center, are the team’s leading boardmen.
Palumbo, who has 18 triples this season, and junior guard Javon Davis are leading reserves.
“Javon Davis plays major minutes for us,” Kezmarsky said.
Uniontown is No. 4 in Class 4A in the Trib HSSN boys basketball rankings behind three teams from Section 2 — Quaker Valley (16-2), New Castle (14-4) and Ambridge (13-7). Highlands (13-5), which holds a slight lead over Knoch in Section 1, rounds out the rankings.
The Red Raiders reached the WPIAL quarterfinals a year ago but lost eight players to graduation, including all-section guard Kam Fitzgerald (18.0 ppg).
Uniontown has advanced to the WPIAL playoffs seven times in the past nine seasons, and won four consecutive section titles from 2010-11 to 2013-14.
The WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball division this season features 19 teams in three sections compared to 23 last year. Highlands, Ringgold and Knoch dropped down from Class 5A.
Kezmarsky has a 156-61 career record in section games.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.