With coach returning, Leechburg boys hope to continue to rise

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 3:39 PM

For the past few years, the Leechburg boys basketball team has been on the rise.

They’ve made two straight WPIAL and PIAA playoffs appearances and after losing only two seniors from last year’s team, the Blue Devils are looking even stronger this season.

“We definitely stretch the floor. We have guys like Connor (McDermott) that can shoot, and guys like Eli (Rich) at the five that can shoot lights out when he’s in the zone,” junior guard Dylan Cook said. “We definitely run the floor and play pressure defense well too.”

The only major change that the Blue Devils went through this offseason was the re-hiring of former coach Damian Davies.

In 2016, Davies’ contract wasn’t renewed by the Leechburg school board when hazing allegations were brought against the boys basketball program. No evidence was found that proved Davies guilty of any wrongdoing, and he was rehired by the school board in June.

“I live here. I teach here. I love my job. I love my students, and I am invested in the community,” Davies said this past June when his hiring was made official. “I’ve really never stopped coaching here. I’ve had offers in the past, but I wanted to be here in Leechburg.”

Davies coached the boys for 14 years prior to the 2016-2017 season and brought the Blue Devils a WPIAL title in 2006-07, which was also the last time Leechburg made the PIAA playoffs before doing so two years ago.

While the longtime Leechburg basketball coach hasn’t been around the boys program for the last three years, he’s had all of his players in class and in camp, which helped coming into this season.

“We’ve all known Coach Davies for a long time. We all know him personally, and we all had him in elementary school and junior high,” said McDermott, a senior. “So the transition wasn’t too difficult for us.”

Along with Cook and McDermott, the Blue Devils are led by a solid senior class that consists of returning starters Jake Blumer and Rich, a sophomore. Cook will run the point and freshman guard Braylan Lovelace will round out the starting five at the beginning of the season.

Their mixture of length, shooting ability and experience will give Davies a lot of options to work with.

“We have the size to control the boards, to get those easy buckets, then we have some people who can really shoot and some people who can really handle the ball,” Davies said. “So that makes it a lot of fun because I feel like there’s not a lot we can’t do, as far as strategy-wise.”

With their combination of experience and youth, the team has come together in hopes of doing something big. But after a few spells last year where the team wasn’t clicking, players feel like they need to work on their consistency this season.

“It feels like whenever he (Connor) is on, I’m off and vice versa,” Cook said. “Whenever we are all on the same page, we showed last year that we are a pretty tough team to beat, but we just have to get it more often than we did last year.”

The Blue Devils will start their season at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 when they host Summit Academy.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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