Westmoreland High School notebook: Ex-P-T coach Rocco looking forward to keeping up with his kids

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Saturday, May 16, 2020 | 7:34 PM


Jim Rocco said he dedicated his soul to basketball. But he won’t sell his soul to the game with other important commitments in his life.

Rocco last week resigned as the boys basketball coach at Penn-Trafford after five seasons.

His son, Zach, just finished his senior season, and the point guard is heading to Army to further his career.

Zach’s sister, Alayna, is a budding soccer and basketball player who is about to start high school.

“I want to watch them play and grow,” the former coach said. “I can’t be everywhere at once. I can’t put the (basketball) kids in that position. There just isn’t time to do it right. I can’t give all of me to everybody.”

Rocco went 54-57 with the Warriors and guided them through three WPIAL playoff trips, including the last two years during matching 14-9 seasons.

He put great emphasis on the youth levels to build continuity up the hierarchy of the program.

“It takes a village,” he said. “I’ll miss that part. It’s a lot, but I’ll miss it.”

Zach Rocco averaged 23.7 points and was a third-team all-state pick. His father wants to follow closely his college career.

“I want to be there to support him,” Jim Rocco said. “If Army is playing Navy on some weeknight, I want to be there to watch. When I played in college, my dad didn’t miss a game. I don’t want to miss a game.”

Jim Rocco played at Roanoke (Va.) before transferring to Gannon.

Rocco, who spent 19 of his 24 years as coach at Penn Hills and won two WPIAL and one PIAA championship, will continue to teach forensic science at Penn-Trafford, so he will see his former players in class.

“If they’re honors kids, I’ll have them,” he said. “They’re great kids. I’ll still be there to make sure the kids are doing what they need to do.”

Marinchak a Griffin

Senior Michael Marinchak, a two-sport athlete at Ligonier Valley, will play college baseball close to home. He gave a verbal commitment to Seton Hill.

A pitcher and solid utility player, Marinchak hit .333 with 13 runs last season.

Marinchak was a talented basketball player, as well. The 6-foot guard averaged 18 points, nine assists and eight rebounds this season for the Rams and finished with more than 1,500 career points — second on the program’s scoring list behind Marrek Paola.

Sowers picks Bloomsburg

Hempfield softball pitcher Callie Sowers didn’t get to pitch this season because of the cancellation of spring sports, but that didn’t stop the junior from earning a Division II scholarship.

Sowers announced she will play at Bloomsburg. The Huskies play in the Division II PSAC.

Known for performing at her best in the playoffs, Sowers helped lead Hempfield to a WPIAL record-tying fifth consecutive title last season. She had an 18-6 record with a 2.29 ERA and 121 strikeouts as a sophomore.

Stuck in neutral

Yough softball coach Dutch Harvey was anxiously awaiting a return to the sidelines this season, especially because he focused his energy on a comeback of sorts.

Harvey resigned after last season but came back to Yough when his replacement fell through. He had been looking forward to coaching alongside a former Cougars standout, Alona Sleith, who decided not to play softball this season at Saint Vincent and instead coach at her alma mater.

Harvey also would have coached his daughter, Sarah, for the first time as a starter. She had missed softball as a freshman after she injured her shoulder in cheerleading. She was slated to start at second base.

“It’s been a crazy spring, for sure,” Dutch Harvey said. “I’ve been doing a lot more fishing and turkey hunting. I’ve also been riding UTVs with my buddy, (Penn-Trafford assistant coach) Rich Ginther.”

Harvey and Ginther take a deer-hunting trip each November for Missouri.

Derry football coach

Derry is in the process of narrowing its search for a football coach to replace Tim Sweeney, who left to coach at Baldwin.

Athletic director Brett Miller said a coach could be named at Derry’s board meeting June 4.

Roll the Dice

Norwin boys basketball coach Buddy Valinsky used to coach at Allderdice, his alma mater, where he won six straight City League titles. He will get to go against his former school next season.

Norwin is scheduled to play at Allderdice on a strengthened 2020-21 schedule.

“The following year, they’ll come our way,” Valinsky said. “We’re trying to get (WPIAL Class 5A champion) Laurel Highlands to come, too, but I am sure everyone is trying to get them.”

Recruiting

Two area soccer players will play at Pitt-Greensburg: Hempfield senior midfielder Jake Ballantyne and Shayne Kasic of Greensburg Salem, a senior goalkeeper.

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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