Westmoreland high school basketball notebook: Hempfield, GCC boys employ unique free throw strategy

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Friday, January 5, 2018 | 12:06 PM


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A Hempfield player gets set to take a foul shot, but none of his teammates are in the lane. It's more like a free rebound than a free throw.

The shooter looks so lonely.

Often times this season when one of its players toes the foul line, the Hempfield boys have lined up with no rebounders in the key, instead sending four players back to set up on defense: it's just a Spartans' free-throw shooter and, usually, four opponents waiting for his miss.

The practice is perfectly legal; odd, but not exactly unprecedented.

“We have done that for years,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “It drives teams crazy but it's something that helps give our kids confidence.”

Greensburg Central Catholic's boys also have dropped players back on foul shots this season.

Why would teams not want a chance to put back a missed free throw? Essentially, Hempfield is willing to trade an opportunity for an offensive rebound for a chance to catch its breath on the other end of the floor. It's a fair trade-off, Swan believes.

“We only play six guys, so why sprint back?” Swan said. “It's a way to rest a little. It's another 10 timeouts a game with it.”

GCC coach Jim Nesser offered the same reasoning. It's a way to counter depth issues.

The concept can also plug up opponents' fast-break chances and allow zone-playing teams to set up more readily.

“When you don't play a lot of guys, you need to conserve energy when you can,” Nesser said. “Any way you can.”

Reunion games

Call them road reunions.

Hempfield girls coach Lindsy Muchnock went against her alma mater Thursday night when the Spartans visited Latrobe. Penn-Trafford boys coach Jim Rocco will reunite with some old faces when the Warriors visit Penn Hills Friday night.

Muchnock, a first-year coach at Hempfield, was a standout post player at Latrobe. She played college basketball at Seton Hill.

Rocco, in his third year at Penn-Trafford, led Penn Hills to 257 wins, two WPIAL titles and a PIAA championship in 19 seasons.

Masked Warrior

Coaches thought Penn-Trafford junior Stephanie O'Donnell was going to miss time after she broke her nose just before the holiday break.

But O'Donnell bounced right back and did not miss a game. She has been wearing a protective mask and slowly is adjusting to the protective visor.

“Steph has been very consistent for us all year. I know she didn't want to miss any time,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “Playing with the mask is a big adjustment, especially with vision aspect of it. She has played through it and never complained. It truly shows a lot of character and toughness because when it happened, it did not look good. She had her surgery and was back out playing the next day and showed no signs of timidness.”

Dynamic duo

Ligonier Valley boasts one of the top boys scoring duos in Westmoreland County. Power forward Marrek Paola is averaging 27 points and point guard Michael Marinchak, 19.3.

And to think the pair has many games ahead of them. Paola (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) is a junior, and Marinchak is just a sophomore.

Paola has 881 career points, while Marinchak is nearing 500.

Thousand Island

Ligonier Valley took time to honor its 1,000-point scorers during a holiday tournament last week. The special ceremony recognized 35 players who reached the milestone at Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley, schools that were consolidated in 2010.

The 1,000-point club began in 1952. Olivia Miller, who graduated last year, is the most recent player to make the list.

Inside the numbers

23 — Rebounds Southmoreland's Maggie Moore grabbed in a 47-27 win over Freeport.

30 — Points Greensburg Salem junior Megan Kallock needed for 1,000 heading into Thursday's games.

43.0 — Scoring average for Laurel Highlands senior guard Bryce Laskey against Westmoreland County teams. He scored 47 against Latrobe, 46 against Greensburg Salem and 36 vs. Hempfield.

61 — Margin of victory for Highlands' boys in a 79-18 win over Southmoreland.

5-0 — Franklin Regional boys' home record under coach Steve Scorpion, a Panthers alum.

0 — Points Norwin's girls scored in the second quarter Wednesday against Penn-Trafford. The Knights still won 51-36.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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