With something to prove, skilled North Allegheny boys taking different approach

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Saturday, December 2, 2023 | 11:01 AM


When a new high school sports season dawns, many coaches are asked what the goals are for their team in the upcoming season.

Many give the same responses:

“Our goal is to win the section.”

“We’re out to make the playoffs.”

“We want to lift that WPIAL trophy at the end.”

For North Allegheny boys basketball coach Dave DeGregorio, the team’s goals are more specific and look to serve a purpose.

“I know most people’s goals are to win a section, win in the WPIAL playoffs. That’s great,” DeGregorio said. “Winning will take care of itself if you embed yourself in the process of doing what you’re supposed to do.”

That process is reflected in what DeGregorio wants his players to achieve throughout the season.

“We’re going after the goals of what we need to take care of every day,” DeGregorio said. “Play hard, focus on what’s in front of them, be a great teammate and bring a positive attitude.”

Apart from being goals for each individual player, those sound like qualities necessary for players to step up in a leadership role.

“Everybody should be a leader at some point in time and think of themselves as a leader,” DeGregorio said. “I don’t like to get into it should be this guy or it should be that guy. Everybody should think about how they can lead at some point in time.”

That’s not to say it’s been easy for all on the team to develop leadership skills; that takes time.

“I think the first couple of weeks some guys have started to understand what it takes to be a leader. So, I hope that continues to pan out,” DeGregorio said.

Apart from learning how to be leaders, the Tigers knew the on-court performances from last season were not up to par as evidenced by the team’s 8-13 record (3-7 in Section 1-6A).

“We have something to prove,” DeGregorio said. “And we’re going to compete at a high level.”

The Tigers roster is comprised of nine seniors and nine juniors, all with plenty of skills to be competitive. There just needs to be more production throughout.

Senior forward/guard Joe Dopirak led the team with an average of 13.8 points per game. Senior guard Anthony Sciote (11.9) and senior forward Ty Iwanonkin (11.6) finished second and third, respectively.

The trio were the only Tigers to average double digits last season.

“Every player needs to step up, and they know that. Not just one guy, the whole group,” DeGregorio said. “My expectations are high for this group of kids.”

Senior guard Joe Marquis led the team in 3-point percentage (38.8) and Sciote (26) and Dopirak (23) finished first and second in steals.

Dopirak, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 28 blocks last year, and Iwanonkin, at 6-11, had 10. Both forwards can handle the ball like guards, which presents an interesting dynamic for the Tigers.

“With our size, we have the opportunity to play inside-out, which is different from the style I used to coach,” DeGregorio said.

A new offensive style may be advantageous for North Allegheny as the Tigers brace for another tough section slate.

New Castle is the defending Section 1-6A champ and has brought in two transfers. DeGregorio didn’t get to see Pine-Richland or Central Catholic play in the summer to see what they have, but feels it’s also too early to be worried about other teams.

“At this point in the season, the worst thing you can do is be concerned with what other people are doing,” DeGregorio said. “You’ve got to take care of what’s right in front of yourself. That’s all we’re doing.”

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