Westmoreland County boys basketball notebook: Latrobe shakes off losses

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Thursday, January 16, 2020 | 6:48 PM


Latrobe is experiencing a down season. Those are words you don’t hear very often coming from the Wildcats’ program.

But the coaches and players are taking it all in stride.

They knew losing 20-points-a-game scorers Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler would not be easy.

“I have been through it before,” coach Brad Wetzel said. “We have had ups and downs over the years. We have some tough kids and they are getting better. They want to get better. They are a great group to coach.”

At 3-11 overall and 1-4 in section, the Wildcats are tied with Norwin for last place in Section 3-6A.

Latrobe lost 11 games combined the last two seasons and has not had double-digit defeats since the 2013-14 season.

It won 92 games over the last five years — 18.4 per season.

The Wildcats, who have lost eight of their last nine games, have not finished worse than fifth in their section since 2005-06. Their last losing season came in 2011-12, which was the last time they missed the playoffs.

“We’re all working together to improve,” junior guard Ryan Sickenberger said.

Better days could lie ahead. Latrobe has just two seniors in top scorer Michael Noonan and Donny Shimko. There are eight juniors on the roster.

Latrobe will play in the MLK Weekend Showcase at Woodland Hills. The Wildcats play Albert Gallatin at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Section 3 parity?

Fox Chapel appears to have made its case to be the top team in Section 3-6A. But the question that nobody seems to be able to answer on the eve the section break is, who is the second-best team?

Fox Chapel (13-0) is 5-0, followed by Penn-Trafford (9-4) and Hempfield (7-7) at 3-2, Connellsville (6-7) at 2-3, and Norwin (9-4) and Latrobe (3-11) at 1-4.

In the first cycle of section games, Penn-Trafford beat Connellsville, Hempfield and Norwin, but lost to Latrobe.

Hempfield only lost by four to Fox Chapel and beat Norwin, Connellsville and Latrobe.

Connellsville won by 18 over Latrobe and beat Norwin.

The second round should be interesting.

Marballie on a roll

Yough junior guard Gamal Marballie has been on a hot scoring streak of late.

In consecutive games, he had 30 points against Derry, 37 when the Cougars played Freeport, 31 against Frazier and 29 at Mt. Pleasant.

Yough coach Jim Nesser said Marballie has developed more variety in his game, including improvements to his mid-range and 3-point shooting.

“He is playing with a lot more confidence and he really worked hard in the offseason to become a complete offensive player,” Nesser said.

Novak coaching

Former Franklin Regional standout Nick Novak, who played seven years of pro basketball overseas, is an assistant coach at North Allegheny.

The Tigers don’t skimp on coaches. Keith Noftz has five assistants, including former Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith.

“We have a lot of guys on staff,” Novak said. “We look like Pitt.”

Novak has been playing in the semi-pro Premier Basketball League for the DuBois Dream. He had 55 points in his first game.

Whitlock reunion

Sophomore standout Devin Whitlock will get to go against his former teammates Saturday when Belle Vernon visits Monessen for a 2:30 p.m. tip.

Whitlock transferred in May and initially was ruled ineligible by the WPIAL, a decision that later was changed.

Whitlock is averaging around 19 points a game for Leopards (11-4, 4-1 Section 3-4A).

The game also marks Belle Vernon coach Joe Salvino’s return to Monessen, a place where he coached for more than three decades.

Belle Vernon has won four in a row and eight of its last nine and is averaging 70.9 points.

Games to watch

Jeannette (8-6, 5-1) will put its seven-game winning streak to the test Friday night when it hosts Brentwood (10-3, 5-1) in a first-place showdown in Section 2-2A.

Brentwood, which has lost three straight, beat Jeannette in their first meeting, 50-48.

Anther top game Friday is Hampton (8-5, 6-1) at Franklin Regional (6-9, 3-4) in Section 3-5A.

Hampton won the first time, 42-38.

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

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