WPIAL championship near-miss drives Pine-Richland boys basketball

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Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM


There are two major themes for the Pine-Richland boys basketball team this winter: They’re experienced and they won’t lack for motivation.

The Rams have six seniors — Luke Shanahan, Joey Dudowski, Andrew Alexander, Andy Swartout, Jameson O’Toole and Nate Zavasky — who all played significant roles for a team that made the WPIAL Class 6A championship game, falling 56-53 to Upper St. Clair.

In their final season together, they’ll be looking to get back on top while navigating an ultra-competitive Class 6A.

Upper St. Clair had a really good team last year, so credit to them, but that loss does leave a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth,” Pine-Richland coach Bob Petcash said. “We always talk about competing, and nobody likes to be in second place. You just have to work hard every day and give your best. That’s what we strive to do.”

Competing is Petcash’s motto, and the Rams did plenty of that in the offseason.

They played in the PBC fall league, attended a camp at Pitt and played in the North Allegheny and New Castle leagues.

“We kept expanding on what we did last year and added onto some of the things we did well,” Petcash said. “It’s easy from a coaching standpoint to keep moving the level up higher with our offense because of their understanding. We always say we want basketball players, not robots. We want guys making high-level basketball decisions while playing instinctively. That’s what we’ve been training to do.”

Joey Petcash, the coach’s son, and Eli Jochem were two starters that graduated from last year’s team. There’s plenty of talent returning, however. Shanahan was first team All-Section. Dudowski was second-team All-Section and Alexander was an honorable mention.

Swartout came off the bench and sank four 3-pointers in the second quarter in Pine-Richland’s 76-63 win over Fox Chapel in the WPIAL semifinals.

Owen Luellen, Josh Gimble and Andrew Lamendola are the juniors who will come off the bench for the Rams. Luellen is the younger brother of former Rams standout Colin Luellen.

Petcash said each junior will be an integral part of the team’s success. He also said that they’ll need to play as a unit on the floor.

“Some guys are going to be on one night and off another, but our expectations are that you have to play tough, hard man-to-man defense and move without the ball on offense and everything else will fall into place,” Petcash said. “Not every shot is going to go down, but if we can do all of the other intangibles, that’ll breed success for our squad.”

Pine-Richland will open the season against Gateway at the Upper St. Clair tournament Dec. 10. Upper St. Clair plays Chartiers Valley in the other matchup.

The Rams played in the smallest section in the WPIAL, Section 1-6A, which features only five teams, but it doesn’t lack in talent. North Allegheny, Butler, Seneca Valley and North Hills are the other four teams in the section, and all but North Hills won a playoff game last year. Butler made the semifinals.

The section fits the overall landscape of 6A.

“Class 6A is going to be a beast in all the sections,” Petcash said. “It’s going to be fun. There aren’t any nights off. Every Tuesday and Friday, you’re going to be battling with the best. All of these teams are really good, so you have to bring your best every night.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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