Westmoreland high school notebook: Team Bounce AAU team recalled fondly

Saturday, February 6, 2021 | 5:45 PM

They were called Team Bounce, and that’s just what they did to teams that took them lightly — bounced ‘em straight out of the gym.

A one-hit wonder that swept through the AAU basketball circuit in 2014, locally operated Bounce had a plethora of talent and found cohesion over a short time. The team lasted one year but gave its players memories for life.


• The team had 10 players who went on to play college basketball, four at the Division I level and six in D-II.

• Three were 1,000-point scorers in high school and in college.

• One played professionally, and two are coaching.

Looking back on the Bounce days makes Adrian Batts smile. The Jeannette boys coach guided a team that included his son, Julian, who played at Jeannette; former Hempfield star Kason Harrell; former Chartiers Valley standout Matty McConnell and others.

Julian Batts (LIU Brooklyn), Harrell (Fort Wayne) and McConnell (Robert Morris) topped 1,000 at both levels. Harrell went in to play pro ball in Ireland’s Super League.

Batts is helping as an assistant coach with his father at Jeannette, and Harrell is the boys freshman coach at Greensburg Central Catholic.

“We were playing at Spooky Nook (sports complex), and people kept asking who we were,” Adrian Batts said. “We get to the Elite 8, and I’m getting, ‘Who’s this guy? Who’s that guy?’”

Bounce beat some highly touted teams, including a nationally ranked one from Michigan, on the way to the national tournament.

Other team members included Joe Mascaro (Bethel Park/Pitt walk-on), Romano Sebastiani (GCC/Pitt-Johnstown), Daylon Harris (Gateway/Edinboro), 6-foot-8 George Prota (Elizabeth Forward), Dom Keyes (Steel Valley/Pitt-Johnstown) and Ramon Creighton (Allderdice/Cal U).

“I just remember the relationships that I was able to build with those guys,” Harrell said. “You spend so much time competing against each other in high school and AAU that you don’t really get to know each other all like that. After Bounce was formed, we went from competitors to brothers. I thank God that we were able to make this team happen.”

D-I offer for Yacamelli

Penn-Trafford junior running back and defensive back Cade Yacamelli has his first Division I-FBS offer, from the Naval Academy.

He already has opportunities to play at two Ivy League programs in Harvard and Penn.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Yacamelli was the second-leading rusher last season for Penn-Trafford, which reached the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals. He ran for 680 yards and eight touchdowns, also caught a scoring throw, and had an interception and fumble recovery on defense.

Wisconsin also has shown soft interest in Yacamelli, whose grandfather, Melvin Yacamelli, played football at Maryland.

Gera breaking records

Hempfield senior Bella Gera is making her mark in the indoor track and field program’s record book.

Gera, a Wake Forest commit, broke the shot put record set by Mackenna Orie with a throw of 47 feet, 7 1/2 inches in the first meet of the season. Orie’s mark was 47-5 1/2.

Gera’s mark ranks second nationally, according to Mile Split USA. She followed that feat with a record-breaking toss in the weight throw of 51 feet, 11 1/2 inches in the Spartans’ second home meet.

High-water mark

Ligonier Valley swimmer Mikayla Smitley broke her own school record in the 100-yard butterfly in a meet against Laurel Highlands with a time of 1 minute, 5.57 seconds. Her old time was 1:05.70.

Spartans on net

Hempfield was tied with Thomas Jefferson for the most goals in PIHL Class AA with 62 heading into the weekend.

The Southeast Division-leading Spartans (9-1) have two of the top 10 point-scorers in the league in sophomore forward Nick Bruno (11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points) and junior forward Aidan Dunlap (14/5/19).

Girls hockey

The PIHL has plans to add girls teams to the league, but the start date for the new venture was pushed back.

Girls teams were expected to begin play this season but because of conflicts with the covid-19 pandemic, the start has been moved to 2022.

One more year?

Marko Thomas was hired last week as the football coach at Greensburg Central Catholic. The Penn-Trafford alum and former Connellsville coach has plans to bring someone special onto his staff: his father, Sonny.

The pair of worked together before at a few different stops.

What’s one more year?

The elder Thomas, 77, has been coaching in the WPIAL for 53 years at various places, including North Braddock, Woodland Hills, Penn-Trafford, Gateway, Yough, Southmoreland and Connellsville.

“I think we’ve talked mom into one more year,” Marko Thomas said.

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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