Westmoreland boys basketball notebook: Deep bond for Mt. Pleasant senior, freshman

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Thursday, February 25, 2021 | 7:19 PM


Nate Kubasky is a senior and Dante Giallonardo, a freshman, but the Mt. Pleasant boys basketball teammates share a common bond as they prepare to play in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. They each lost a loved one to cancer.

They not only support each other but also get a lift from teammates and coaches as they use sports — at this time of year, basketball — to forge ahead and play for their departed family members.

Kubasky’s father, Charles, a beloved father, husband and coach in the community, died in 2017 at age 46.

Dom Giallonardo, a former three-sport athlete at Mt. Pleasant and Dante’s older brother, died last November after a six-year battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a disease he twice defeated before. He was 19.

“Basketball, baseball and football. I am playing three sports just like him,” Dante Giallonardo said. “He taught me in our backyard how to play all three.”

Charles Kubasky continued to coach baseball and wore a medicine pack while he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

“I was a freshman, as well, when it happened to me,” Kubasky said. “I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. Dante and I can talk about things and support each other.

“My dad taught me everything I know about sports. He loved watching me play.”

Nate Kubasky did not play basketball last season and also took a year off from baseball. “I just want to work hard for him,” he said.

Dante Giallonardo is on the varsity roster but has not played a game because of an ankle injury. He wants to take the court soon to begin his mission: “I want to score 1,000 points for Dom,” he said. “I’d like to think he would be proud of me.”

Mt. Pleasant wears blue warmup shirts that say, “In memory of ‘Dom’ ” on the back, with his familiar No. 2.

The Vikings (7-8) will continue to wear them in the playoffs. They host Hopewell (1-12) in a Class 4A preliminary round game 6 p.m. Monday.

“We feel for Nate and Dante,” Mt. Pleasant coach TJ Kravits said. “This has impacted them greatly. It’s nice to know they have each other. We’re all here for them.”

Mt. Pleasant also has rallied around 6-4 senior Jake Bungard, who is playing again after a he was involved in a serious vehicle accident last January.

A video stream was set up in Bungard’s hospital room so he could watch Mt. Pleasant play.

Bungard is a starter for the Vikings.

Want a game?

WPIAL coaches have been busy the past couple of weeks as the regular season season crept toward the playoffs. Teams have been cramming games to get ready for postseason play.

Franklin Regional, a Class 5A team, strengthened the back-end of its schedule by adding games against four of the top-ranked 6A teams in No. 1 Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel (2), Hempfield (3) and Penn-Trafford (5).

Hempfield had games against Canon-McMillan and Bishop Guilfoyle postponed but quickly added games against Albert Gallatin and Mars.

“It’s crazy,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “You pick them up as they come. We have this big group text. Need a game? It happens pretty quickly.”

Warriors on the mark

Penn-Trafford has posted some attention-grabbing wins of late. The momentum earned the Warriors the No. 4 seed in a tough Class 6A playoff bracket.

After a pair of tight losses to No. 2 Fox Chapel and No. 3 Hempfield, Penn-Trafford (11-5) topped Norwin and Greensburg Salem before impressive wins over 5A No. 1 Chartiers Valley (73-66) and Central Catholic (60-48). The latter two came at home.

The Warriors, who also have a win over Fox Chapel, swept Central Catholic.

They have a propensity for tight finishes. Take away a 63-41 loss to No. 1 Upper St. Clair and the Warriors’ other losses are by a combined 18 points. They have six games decided by four or fewer points. They’ve won four of them.

“Coach (Doug) Kelly has been turning up the intensity every day at practice and games,” senior point guard Chase Vecchio said. “He tells us every day, ‘We want to play our best basketball in late February and March.’ The time is now to play our best for the team.”

Penn-Trafford hosts No. 13 North Hills at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs.

More games allowed

The WPIAL is allowing teams to play additional regular-season games until the date of their playoff game.

Once a team is eliminated, it can continue to play games until March 27, up to the 22-game maximum. Teams are not permitted to play games between playoff games.

Scrimmages are allowed as usual during the playoffs.

Layups

Something will have to give Saturday when Canon-McMillan plays at Greensburg Salem in a Class 6A preliminary round game. Both teams are 0-12. … Ligonier Valley junior guard Matthew Marinchak is coming on offensively and is becoming one of the top scorers in Class 3A. He had 36 points in a win over East Allegheny, added 32 in an overtime loss to Apollo-Ridge, and went for 33 as the Rams topped Steel Valley. … Norwin could have its hands full in the first round of the 6A playoffs with Butler and junior guard Devin Carney. The guard had three 40-plus-point games in the last two weeks, including 49 in a 74-71 overtime win over Pine-Richland. He made 14 of 14 free throws in the win. Carney also has games of 31, 39, 34 and 41, all against 6A competition. He had 24 against Norwin in a loss to the Knights last month. … GCC’s Brevan Williams leads the county in scoring at 22.7 points.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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