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2008-09 Basketball Coach's Corner

Coach's Corner #1

1. Can you give a quick rundown of the team this year? Who are the key players coming back as well as some of the varsity newcomers?

We return 5 letter winners from last year. Senior Paul Weatherly returns as one of the area’s top players. Paul is a tremendous kid with an incredible work ethic. He really leads by example. We return an outstanding defender, rebounder, and scorer in junior Richard Agurs. Carlton Wyatt adds experience and athleticism to the line up as well as. Sophomore Dajour Morris and Rob Irving give us an inside threat. The one newcomer that will have an immediate impact on our team is Quadir Christian. Qaudir did not play last year and I believe this is his first varisty experience. He is a lightning quick guard that runs our offense extremely well.


2.The team got off to a nice start defeating Forest Hills 56-29, what were some keys to that victory? Things the team could have done better?

We got off to a slow start because I believe we were too anxious to play. We have been beating on each other in practice for 3 weeks, we were really excited to open the season. Once we settled down, we were more effective against Forest Hills’ 3-2 and 1-3-1 defenses.

We also made some defensive adjustments in the second half which wore down Forest Hills and allowed us to outscore them 35-11 in the second half.

I think we played as well as could be expected for our first outing.


3. Was the contest with Richland postponed due to weather and if so, when is the makeup date?

Richland cancelled school on Friday, therefore the game was cancelled. We have not set a make up date yet, but I know it will not be played in the month of December.


4. You have a busy and tough week ahead as the Trojans will play Altoona on Monday, Somerset on Wednesday and Westmont on Friday. Can you give some quick thoughts to each of those games and the challenges that lie ahead?

We do have a very difficult week ahead. I am trying not to look ahead because we play a very good Altoona team on Monday. Altoona will come in with two of the better players in District 6 in Anthony Lytle and Alex Raymond. Lytle is a 6’5" forward who is very aggressive on the offensive end. He had 6 dunks against DuBois on Saturday. Raymond is an outstanding point guard that does a great job of directing his team. We will have to limit those two in order to have a chance to win.

Somerset will come to town with a high scoring offense and aggressive 1-3-1 defense. You don’t see the 1-3-1 very much, which makes it difficult to attack. Coach Close does a great job teaching their system. The have two outstanding guards in Papini and Fisher. Johnstown and Somerset have developed a rivalry over the last couple of years. It should be a great basketball game.

On Friday at Westmont, we will face another dynamic duo in Center Mike Valcheff and Point Guard Chris Kessler. They are two seniors with a lot of experience. To have a chance to beat Westmont, we will have to limit Valcheff’s effectiveness in the post and Kessler’s penetration and shooting.


5. What are your thoughts going back to coach against Westmont? I know with the Windber Tournament you'll be playing them two times in ten days, but this one has a little extra meaning as it's your first trip back to Westmont's gym since leaving there to become Trojans coach.

I am sure I won’t sleep much on Thursday night. There will be a lot of emotions on Friday night. It will be different dressing in the visitor’s locker room and sitting on the other bench. I better remember which coaching box is mine so that I don’t get a technical foul.

I still care about those kids. I have remained close with several of the seniors. The bottom line is that we have a job to do up there on Friday night. I will be focused during preparation and during the game on winning a basketball game for Johnstown.


Coach's Corner #2

1. It was a great way to start the week with the exciting, overtime win over Altoona. Can you talk a little about not only the game, but the meaning of that rivalry?

It was a tremendous win for our kids and our program. Like I said in the paper and like our Assistant Coach Ryan Durham, who played for JHS and experienced the Altoona rivalry first hand, said during practice, the old-timers don’t want to know what you did against the local teams, they want to know what you did against Altoona. Our kids responded!

The most impressive thing is that we did it without a game film to prepare from. We concentrated on fundamental defense in practice, i.e. guarding the post, pressuring the ball, guarding screens. We were to film Altoona’s game with DuBois on Thursday. It was postponed. It was originally rescheduled for 6:00 PM on Saturday. We were prepared to go out when we saw the game time on the internet was listed as 1:30 PM.

Coach Durham also posted the Altoona Mirror article from the 2007 game against Altoona where their coach said, "It is not much of a rivalry anymore because Johnstown is AAA and they didn’t put up much of a fight." I am sure he felt differently on the long ride home over the mountain.


2. In the middle of the week you defeated a very good Somerset team coached by Scott Close. They were undefeated prior to the game and have a couple real nice players in Papini and Fisher. What were the keys to getting that win?

Defensively, we held them to their season low of 55 points. That is 22 below their average. I thought our transition defense was pretty good. We did turn the ball over 18 times but we forced 21 turnovers also. We outrebounded them 43-25 which means we did not allow many second chance points.


3. Last but not least for the week that was featured your homecoming of sorts as you played at Westmont. We've already talked about the personal implications of that game leading up to it, but how about the game itself? You guys were tied at the half and in what appeared to be a real fight. What were you able to do as a team to come out in the second half and eventually get the win?

I think our guys came out a little tight or even flat. It was our third game of the week and we were coming off two very physical rivalry games. I don’t know if the kids felt pressure that they had to win a game for me, but for some reason, we were out of it. Westmont started the game in a 2-3 zone. We were prepared for it but didn’t execute as well as we had practiced. We did battle through a tough first half. We were down 15-5 at one point in the first quarter. We made a halftime adjustment defensively because we thought they were getting too many easy shots. Once we got the lead by 6 points in the third quarter, we pulled the ball out and made them match up with us. We got three straight layups including two (and 1’s) which put the game out of reach. We got up by as many as 16 then they made a couple of buckets to get it under 10.


4. Just one game coming up this week against Bedford. It looks like they're coming into the game with a 2-2 record, what will be some keys for the Trojans to be victorious over the Bisons?

Like with any game, it will start with defense. We are in the same boat as we were with Altoona. We were prepared to tape their game Friday night at Penn Cambria. It was postponed. So we prepared yesterday without a game film. We concentrated on what we need to do as a team to be successful. Bedford has good size, so we will have to continue to do a good job on of rebounding. They have three kids averaging double figures. So again, it will come down to our defense getting stops.

I would like to wish everyone in Trojan Nation a very Merry Christmas!


Coach's Corner #3

1. It was a light week last week, what can you tell us about the win over Bedford?  It looks like the team overcame a halftime deficit to score the win.

We played the worst first half in my coaching history. Offensively, we could not score a basket and that had a lot to do with not executing what we had practiced the day before. To the credit of the kids, they battled through some adversity and outscored Bedford by 26 in the second half.


2. Another light week as you guys play in the Windber tournament on Monday and Tuesday. Since the team already faced Westmont, what can you tell us about the other two squads in the tourney (Windber and OLSH)?

Windber is a very scrappy group. They are not loaded with talent as some of the Windber teams of the past, but one thing you can always count on is that the Ramblers will battle you for 32 minutes. They have a new coach in former Rambler Greg Burke. Coach Burke is doing things the right way which means he will sacrifice some wins this year in order to establish his program.

OLSH is coached by former Windber head coach Mike Rodriguez. I have not seen OLSH play, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are well-coached. Mike is a tremendous coach and will have his kids ready to play.

3.  In general, since you've been coaching for quite a few years, what are your thoughts on playing in tournaments over the holidays? Can you compare/contrast with having the team sit idle for the week, as far as games are concerned?

I have been on both sides of the fence with this.

I have had experienced teams that enjoyed competing in the tournaments and did not want any time off. I remember back in 2004, we had 16 days off between games. It was a blessing because we treated it as pre-season practices. We went on to win the District 6-AA title that year.

I think it is good and bad for us this year. It is bad in the sense that we have to play a conference opponent again. It is also bad because we could use some more time in the gym with practice. It is good in the sense that we are 5-0 don’t go two weeks without playing a game. I guess it depends what kind of season you are having to this point to say whether or not you prefer to play over the break.


4.  After the tournament, and with the holiday, are you guys able to do any practicing or will you be off until school is back in session?

The kids will have Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off. We will get back in the gym Saturday morning. We will give them Sunday off and then use Monday and Tuesday to prepare for Bishop Carroll.


Coach's Corner #4

1. The team lost an overtime contest with Westmont to open the Windber tourney, it sounds like some weaknesses might have been exposed. How did you go about talking to the team and trying to get things corrected in light of having to go back out the next night and play?

We were really disappointed with the loss. After the game we talked about being focused to start games, remaining focused on what is working and sticking with it. Paul Weatherly had 18 points in the first half and we quit going to him.

We are working very hard in practice against zone defenses. We are trying to get across to the kids that you don’t have to be a good shooting team to attack zone defenses. The staff is trying to get the kids to understand how to attack a zone.

We are not a good shooting team and that includes the foul line. Even though Westmont had 22 more free throw attempts than we did, we were only 9 of 19. So, if we make one more, we win in regulation. Today’s (Friday) practice will be strictly with my dad helping with our free throws.

2. What are your thoughts on playing a conference team like Westmont, especially a section team that you will already play twice in the regular season anyway? I'm wondering both from the perspective of having to play the same team three times in general, as well as playing the same team with only ten days in between.

I hate it! That is why we have pulled out of the Windber tournament next year. Instead, we will go to the Meadville Tip-Off Tournament the first week of the season. I may look into hosting our own Christmas Tournament down the road. We will be in the UPJ Tournament in 2010 and 2011 and I have asked the committee to invite some non-LHAC teams.

I hate to lose any game, but if we were going to drop a game against a LHAC opponent, I am glad it happened in a tournament setting and not in conference play.


3. You guys bounced back and won by 30 over Windber. Although that's a team Johnstown probably should beat, you have to feel good about how the team bounced back the next night after a tough loss. How you assess the victory over the Ramblers?

Like I said before, I was proud of the way we came out with a chip on our shoulder and took command of the game from the get-go. We told the kids that regardless of the talent level of Windber, they will come out and work like heck for 32 minutes and we had to match that intensity. We did just that!

We told them it is easy to get excited to play in the championship game. It is very difficult to get motivated for the consolation game. How motivated they come out will say a lot about the kind of team we are and what kind of athletes they are.

I give a lot of credit to the kids. We came out with great intensity and never let up.


4. It looks like a tough week ahead once school is back in session with games on Wednesday at home against Bishop Carroll and Friday at Bishop McCort. Both teams are off to excellent starts and seem to be well-coached, can you give us some general thoughts on the week to come?

You are absolutely right, both teams are very well-coached. What Coach Aliquo has done at BC is truly impressive. He has taken a team that a lot of people look at and think they will waltz over, and has them competitive with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. He does a great job of forcing you to play their style.

Coach Hollern always does an excellent job at McCort. It looks as though they were starting to get their basketball legs as they headed into the break. I am sure they used the break to work on getting better. It is the City Game and it will be an intense atmosphere on Osborne Street.


Coach's Corner #5

1.  Well, it was a rough week as the Trojans lost back-to-back days to close out the week, falling to McCort Friday and Bishop Carroll on Saturday. Regarding the McCort game, it seemed like the Crushers just couldn't miss a shot and they stayed hot throughout the game (most times a team with a hot start like that will cool off). What do you think were some of the reasons, besides their shooting, that led to the loss?

Our man to man defense left a lot to be desired. We gave up easy dribble penetration which requires us to help. That help leaves shooters wide open for uncontested three-pointers. They are too good of shooters to allow that.

We have a long way to go in our man to man defense. We are not going to give up on it because I believe that is what strong programs are built upon. We practice it every day and will continue to do so. It is a technique thing and a habit. Right now we have bad habits. That will soon change to good habits.


2. We talked about the rivlary with Altoona earlier this year, what are your thoughts on the rivalry with Bishop McCort? It seems like everyone, at some point, in some sport, calls the Crushers a rivarly game (your days at Westmont could surely attest to this), but this one is still pretty special no?

I thought it was great to see the gym packed and the atmosphere was pretty good for an early January game.  Whoever says this game is not a rivalry has no idea what they are talking about. How can’t it be with the schools only a couple of hundred yards away from each other. It was a great atmosphere for a high school basketball game.


3. Moving on to the Bishop Carroll contest the next afternoon, I believe you guys were down 12 at the half, so it's a positive that you were able to come back but still a let down in that it was a loss. What were some of the key factors in the BC game?

Our M.O. has been slow starts and we lived up to that Saturday. We have tried everything in practice to alleviate it by switching drills around or changing the sequence with some accountability drills to start practice.

We dug ourselves a deep hole and scratched and clawed like crazy to get back in the game. We had the ball and the lead three times in the final 1:30 and we just made bad decisions with the ball. In hindsight, I should have called a timeout right before the last turnover. Our point guard, Quadir Christian was on the bench with his 5th foul. The outcome may have been different had Quadir had the ball in his hands at that point.

4. In general, what do you tell a team to get them back on track after a slight setback in what could be a very promising season?

It has always been my theory that during a slump, you have to get back to basics. On Sunday, after two tough losses, we probably had our best practice since I have been at Johnstown. That was a great sign to me that the guys are not satisfied with the way we are playing.

We got back to basics with our man to man defense. We worked on some other fundamental things in our transition game.


5. The good news is that the team will be back on the court often this week and will have chances to get things back on the winning track. Three teams in Richland, Bishop Guilfoyle and Penn Cambria are on the docket this week and they all surely bring different challenges to you guys. This is another handful of teams that the Trojans haven't faced yet this year, have you seen any of these squads either in person or on tape and what can you tell us about each of them?

I will start with Richland. I saw them on film against BG. They play typical Tim Koshute basketball, which is fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. They have a you senior point guard surrounded by many underclassmen. They shoot the ball pretty well from the perimeter and they play a solid 2-3 zone. I think this game will come down to our defense creating turnovers and easy offense.

Bishop Guilfoyle will be a tough test on Wednesday. Watching them on film, I don’t know how they have a losing record. It is like watching Hoosiers when you see them play. They have a great motion offense and they do a fantastic job on the defensive end as well. They don’t have great size which is good for us. However, they do have one of the best athletes (Brown) in the LHAC.

Penn Cambria has been one of the surprise teams in the league. They shoot the ball extremely well. They average 10 three pointers per game. We will have to do a great job of defending the perimeter and challenging their shooters.


Coach's Corner #6

1. I wanted to ask last week and I forgot, can you talk a little bit about Paul Weatherly scoring his 1,000th point and the great company that puts him with in school history? You've had the unique experience of both coaching against him and coaching him, what makes him such a special player?

It is a great accomplishment for a high school player to reach the 1,000 point milestone. At Johnstown High, Paul joins a group of elite basketball players. Just take a glance at the wall in Doc Stofko Gym to understand the company he is now in. Pat Cummings, Don Maser, Mark Horner, Kelly Gunby, Kurt Hoffman, Jeffers, I apologize for anyone that I missed.

All you need to know about Paul is that he would have traded that 1,000 point for a win. He was so disappointed that I had to convince him to talk to the media following the game.

Trust me, it is better to game plan with Paul Weatherly than to game plan against him. Paul deserves all of the accolades he is receiving. His work ethic is second to none. He has a tremendous attitude. He is a success on the basketball court and in the class room. When I introduced Paul to our Mini-Trojan Basketball group on Saturday, I told all of the kids that Paul Weatherly should be their role model.

2. Can you talk in general about one of your younger players, Cliff Eddins? I got to see him play a lot of varsity minutes against Bishop McCort and it seems like he's a young player with a lot of potential.

Cliff has come a long way in a short time. When he stepped onto campus this fall, we could see his raw talent in our open gym settings. We felt he could be one of our better players. He had a little bit of transition time into a structured setting. He has matured quite a bit in the last two months and has earned the playing time he is receiving. If he continues down the path he is on now, the sky is the limit for Cliff.


3. After a tough stretch the prior week, the squad was 2-0 last week, scoring victories over Richland and Bishop Guilfoyle, can you give some keys to each of those wins?

I am not going to go into much detail as to not give anything away, but we made a few adjustments defensively over the past week and it is fitting our personnel much better. Sometimes as a coach you can be stubborn and reluctant to change. We are not going to completely deviate from what a successful program must do, but we are adding things a little sooner than we should be.


4. How frustrating is it coaching a winter sport at times when the weather messes with the schedule and throws off your routine of practice and games?

It is very frustrating especially when you are winning. You want to keep the momentum going. Every time we get something going, we seem to be postponed.


5. Two games this week, both at the friendly home confines of Doc Stofko Gymnasium. Since you played Richland just in last week, I'll ask about Central Cambria as we've yet to face them. It seems like a lot of teams have been successful with Jordan Miller (34.7 points per game) getting his points but shutting down the rest of the squad as their record is 4-7. How you will you guys go about your business against the Red Devils?

As you said, it obviously begins with Jordan Miller. He is an outstanding player and scorer. I believe he is in the top 5 in the state in scoring. He takes 54% of their shots and scores 59% of their points. He has made 74% of Central Cambria’s 3-pointers.

That being said, Central Cambria has become more balanced in the past couple of weeks. They have some others that are capable of knocking down shots. We have to be fundamental in our assignments and continue to defend like we have in the past 10 quarters.


Coach's Corner #7

1. You guys trailed at the half against Central Cambria but you wouldn't know it from the final score, can you talk about the great run you guys had in the second half of that contest?

In the first half, our press gave up too many easy baskets. They were moving the ball very well and we were getting beat on the back side. We made a slight adjustment to the press which took away their easy baskets. That adjustment allowed us to outscore them 31 to 9 in the pivotal third quarter.


2. The team "held" Jordan Miller to 24 points, he's a real explosive player, what were you able to do against him, especially in the second half, to keep him from taking over the game?

We rotated 3 fresh bodies on him the entire game….Cliff Eddins, Demetrius Gibson, and Jordan Jefferson. We pressed him the entire game. When he gave up the ball, we denied him from getting it back. Those three guys wore him down. The other thing we did well in the second half is that we guarded him without fouling him. He had 8 free throws in the first half.


3. To the Richland game, sounds like another strong second half, and in particular third quarter for the Trojans. Can you tell us a little about that win?

Just like the last three games, we made some adjustments to our press in the second half and were able to open up with a strong third quarter. Our press is causing some turnovers, but we have also been giving up some easy baskets. That’s an adjustment that I have had to make as a coach is that if you press, you will cause some turnovers, but you will also give up some easy baskets. We just have to cut down on the number of easy ones.


4.  Since we've already played Somerset and Westmont, what can you tell us about the DuBois team that you'll face Monday night?

DuBois has a new coach this year. They go about 8 players deep. They have very good size in a couple of kids in the 6’4" and 6’5" range. They have a solid guard in #3 Parlor. He is an outstanding shooter. I think we have a quickness advantage and we will try to take advantage of that and force them into an uptempo game. I feel we can pressure their guard enough to make it difficult for them to set up their half court offense and pound it inside. It is a long road trip. Hopefully we can remained focus and come home with a win. It is an important game for district seedings as it is worth 8 points and will move us into third place.


Coach's Corner #8

1. The team had a great week last week, going 3-0 and, as you eluded to last week, with the win over AAAA DuBois, you're in third place in the District standings for seedings. Overall, can you assess the week you had in general? Also, what are some of things that have led you guys to rebound quite nicely from that rough week you had at the beginning of January (the team is 7-0 since losing to Bishop Carroll on 1/10)?

First off, with our win last night at Bishop Carroll, we solidified the #2 seed in the District 6-AAA Playoffs behind Central-Martinsburg. Games played through February 5th count towards the seedings.

We did have a great week last week going 3-0. The kids have been responding to the coaches and the results are showing it. We played great defense in those three contests and we attacked the zone defenses extremely well.

The biggest part of our turn around is that we believe the kids are starting to buy into what we are teaching. I said when I was hired that there would be growing pains. By no means have we completely arrived, that will take a couple of seasons. But our program is beginning to take shape, the kids are starting to understand the importance of practice habits carrying over to games.


2. Paul dropped 34 on Penn Cambria last week, a season high (and I'm pretty sure a career high, although he did have 31 against Bedford a year ago), can you talk about his peformance, specifically in this contest?

Our guys did a great job of sharing the ball. Paul was patient and let the game come to him. He attacked the rim when he could and did a great job of getting to the foul line. I believe 14 of his point were on free throws.


3. It's kind of a redemption week, as you're facing two squads in Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort that you lost to last time out. Any extra motivation on that end or is it business as usual?I never liked the revenge factor. There is enough at stake to worry about revenge. All three games this week will help decide the outcome of Section II.

With the bottleneck at the top of Section 2 in the LHAC, can you talk about the added significance of these games and how there might be a big game playoff atmosphere despite it being early February. Starting last week at Penn Cambria, every game is a playoff game if we hope to win Section II. Basically, we control our own destiny. If we can beat Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort, Somerset, and Cambria Heights, we will win Section II via the cross-section tie breaker.

This will be no easy task. We understand the competition in front of us.


Coach's Corner #9
1.  The team went 2-1 last week, scoring big wins over Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort but losing by a point to Somerset to close the week out.  Your thoughts on the week in general?
It was a great week in that we were able to beat two teams that had beaten us before.  We were able to do it in convincing fashion.  Most importantly we won two games that had a playoff feel to them in regards to what was at stake in Section II.  We had a real good road win in a very tough place to play at Bishop Carroll.  It was a close first half and then the guys responding to the adjustments at halftime and we were able to open up a comfortable lead in the second half.
The McCort win meant a great deal to this program.  Going into Friday’s game, we have lost 5 straight to McCort.  To play the way we did Friday, got us over that hump and let everyone in the city know that we are back.
The Somerset game will go down as one of the toughest losses in my coaching career because of what was at stake and because we let a lead slip away.  We will learn from this game and it will help us in the District Playoffs.

2.  You said you didn't buy into the revenge factor with the McCort and Carroll games as there was enough on the line with those games anyway.  It seems like the team got their influence from you.  Tell us, how pleased were you with those two outings, winning both games by 20 points or more?
It showed how far we have come as a team this year.  The guys are buying into the system.  They are working hard and unselfishly.  They are starting to see that what we are talking about is not a bunch of hot air, but rather the things we need to do to be a successful program.

3.  How about your thoughts on the loss to Somerset?  Was it tough to come out on a Saturday after such a big emotional win on Friday and the week you had in general?
I was worried about coming out flat after such and big win against are city rival.  We did not come out flat.  We came out of the gate strong and played well enough to win for about 28 minutes.  We lost our composure in the last few minutes which let the game slip away.

I think fatigue may have had a factor.  We’ll never know the answer to that though.  I am proud of the way the kids battled right down to the last second.  Like I said before, we will learn from this game and be better for it in the playoffs.
4.  It looks like the team ends the regular season with a tough, three road game week.  First, I'd like to talk about Cambria Heights.  They've been great all year, but have lost their last three so it might be a tougher time to face them than usual, especially with their chances at Section 1 on the line.  Vescovi, Link, Lansberry, these guys have put some nice games together all season and seem to play real good team ball, can you talk about the stiff challenge the Highlanders will give to the Trojans Wednesday night?
Cambria Heights has a real experienced team.  I believe they start 4 seniors and 1 junior.  That junior is Ian Vescovi who is one of the best players in District 6 regardless of class.  He is 6’8” with great skills.  He can handle the ball, shoot, and post up.  He is a difficult matchup for anyone they play.  To make things tougher, they surround him with 3 guys that can really shoot the basketball from the perimeter.  That means that everyone must adhere to their defensive assignments and not give them too many open shots.  Our advantage lies in our depth.  They only play 6 or 7 guys so I am hoping that our pressure will wear on them enough to have an effect on their perimeter shooting.
5.  The CH game is in between two non-conference games:  Punxsutawney and State College.  First, the Chucks, and although they're just 10-8, it a tough task to turn around with one day's rest from the Somerset game and travel to Jefferson County to take on a team in their gym.  Have you seen these guys in person or on tape and if so, what type of game to you expect it to be?
I have not seen Punxsy on tape because we were focused on our three Section II games last week.  We do have a scouting report on them however.  We will use this game as a playoff type game as we play a team we are not real familiar with.  We did not want to overload the guys especially since this is a non-conference game and the playoff seedings have already been decided. 

6.  Moving on to State College, a familiar opponent for those of us that remember the old Mid Alleghenies Conference days and one that's stayed on the schedule after that league folded.  People that follow high school basketball in the region know the names Jamar and Bernard Smack as they've been contributors for the Little Lions for quite awhile now.  Also, from what I remember they have a great student body following and have a great atmosphere for most of their home games, will you guys be treating this as a playoff tune-up in the terms of big game, big gym atmosphere?
Yes, this will be a great challenge for us to go State College and play an outstanding basketball team.  Jamar Smack is one of the best guards in the state.  He will be a difficult match up for us.  I have not looked at State College yet but I do have a film on them.  I will concentrate on them Wednesday night after our game against Cambria Heights.

7.  Last but not least, could you clarify something you eluded to in your final answer in last week's Coach's Corner?  What exactly is the cross-section tie breaker?  In other words, do the Trojans still have a chance to play in the LHAC Championship Game on 2/14 at Richland High or did the loss to Somerset end those chances? 
The Somerset loss eliminated our chances at a Section II title.  Had we won at Somerset , the tie breakers would have boiled down to two things.  First the cross-section record.  A victory against CH would have given us a record of 6-0 versus Section I.  McCort had lost to Heights so that would have given us the edge.
Coach's Corner #10
1.  So the squad went 1-2 last week, beating Punxsy before losing to Cambria Heights and State College.  I know as a competitor you want to win every game, but were you able to take any positives from those losses?  They were both to good teams and the scores were close, I know you're not into moral victories, but what up note can you take from those contests going into the postseason?
You’re right, we are not into moral victories, however, we tell the kids that you must learn from every win and every loss.  Against Cambria Heights, we got off to a slow start but battled back to take a lead with 2 minutes remaining.  We had a few mental lapses and missed assignments on defense in those last two minutes which cost us the game.  I was proud of the way we attacked the rim despite them having a 6’8” kid in the middle of the paint.  Somehow in 72 shot attempts inside the paint, we only shot 5 free throws.
I was proud of the way we competed against State College.  They were by far the best team we faced all year.  They are very talented at all 5 positions.  Jamar Smack is the best player we have seen all year.  We were tied at half and they outscored us by 5 in the third and by 6 in the fourth quarter.  It was a good game against the largest school west of Reading, PA which will get us ready for the playoffs.

2.  How did the game at Punxsy go?  That's quite a road trip for a Monday night and it seems like you guys were able to get off the bus and get the job done.
Punxsy started off red hot from the perimeter, as we trailed 9-4 early on.  We tightened up the defense and only allowed 2 threes the remainder of the game as well as only 33 points overall.  We played well considering we didn’t practice on Sunday.  We had to give the guys a day off after playing on Saturday.
3.  Next, to the four-point loss at Cambria Heights, what were some deciding factors in this one?
First of all, Cambria Heights is a real good and experienced basketball team.  They start 4 seniors who have been starting together for several years.  Throw in a very talented 6’8” center, and you have the makings of a good team. 
We got off to a slow start and battled our way back into the game.  We took a lead late in the fourth quarter and had the mental lapses like I mentioned earlier.  We are an inexperienced team that is still learning how to finish games.
4.  Lastly, the State College game, I was able to listen to this one Friday night.  Although they held Paul under wraps in the first half, you guys were hanging tough with them.  It seems like the Little Lions got off on a little run at the beginning of the fourth quarter and pulled away.  Can you talk about the game in general and specifically about how Paul battled back to still be able to lead the team in scoring and also what kind of effect did Quadir getting into foul trouble cause?
We were tied at halftime.  State College made an offensive adjustment that threw us off for a few possessions.  Those possessions resulted in two three-pointers that stretched their lead to 6.  We were never able to get it closer than 6 points after that. 
Paul, as well as all of our guys battled the entire game.  State College is a big, athletic, and physical team.  They kids did a very good job at certain times of the game.  Paul was patient and let the game come to him.  He was able to get to the rim and also get some offensive rebounds in the second half.
Quadir’s foul trouble hurt us because we lost our primary ball handler.  To make things worse, Jordan Jefferson, our back up point guard, cramped up immediately after we put him in replace of Quadir.  Jordan playing a lot of minutes in the JV game contributed to the cramps.

5.  Although at the current time, we don't know when or where the game will be, you do know the opponent:  Tyrone.  They also have a 16-6 record but coming out of the Mountain Athletic Conference, Nittany Division, they only share one common opponent (Bishop Guilfoyle) with the Trojans.  What have you seen of this team and what kind of challenges will they give the Trojans? 
I have seen Tyrone and we have a few tapes of them.  They are really impressive.  What stands out the most  is how aggressive they are on both offense and defense.  They put tremendous pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes.  They play outstanding team defense.  Offensively they like to attack the rim.  We shot charted the games we have on them and the shot chart is real crowded near the rim.
To be successful, we will have to handle their pressure defense.  Secondly, we will have to contain their attacking style on offense.  Lastly, we know it will be a close game so we have to learn from our previous mistakes and finish with better game management.

Coach's Corner #11

1.  It sounds like it was a tough game against Tyrone, can you talk about how the team played, especially in light of overcoming some adversity in that the team was trailing a lot during the game?

I am so proud of the way the kids handled themselves.  We were down 4 points with under 2 minutes left, and we got three straight steals which led to 6 straight points and the lead.  I said in our loss at Somerset, that this team will learn from that loss and learn how to finish a game.  We did just that.  After we took the lead, we took care of the basketball and made 4 of 5 free throws to seal the deal.

2.  To the championship game and Somerset, a team the Trojans split the regular season with.  What are you thoughts going into this game and is what you see from Somerset that this point in the season any different from when you guys won early on?

Somerset doesn’t change a whole lot.  Coach Close comes at you with pressure like we do.  You will see their 1-3-1 trapping defense.  The last time we played them, they played a lot more 2-3 zone against us.  We will be prepared for everything, even a little 1-3 chaser or box and one like Tyrone threw at us.


3.  Obviously the team's goal is to win the district title, but it must be nice know that win or lose, you'll be advancing to the state playoffs, no?  I know you don't want to look ahead, but I'm sure you and the team can be proud of making it to the PIAAs five out of the last six years.

As a coach, I have six goals  every season.  #1 the team must improve as the season goes on.  #2 We must become better coaches as the season goes on.  #3 The players must improve as the season goes on.  #4 LHAC Championship.  #5 District 6 Championship.  #6 State Championship.  I believe we have accomplished 3 of these goals and 2 still lie ahead of us.


4. With Somerset having to play two games to get to the district title while JHS only had to play one, do you think that gives the Trojans an advantage with being rested at this point of the season or do you feel the break in between each team's last game is ample enough for both squads to be fresh and ready to go come Wednesday?

I don’t think that will have any effect on the game.  Both teams play up-tempo and are in terrific physical shape. 


Coach's Corner #12

1.  First of all, congratulations to you, your staff and the team on the 6-AAA championship victory.  What do you think were the key factors in the game, especially in light of Somerset getting the hot start and jumping out to the early lead in the first quarter?

When Somerset jumped out to the 9-2 lead, we didn’t panic.  The coaches didn’t panic and more importantly the kids didn’t panic.  Sometimes in that situation kids will try to make up the deficit in one possession and start jacking up three pointers.  We stuck to the game plan and kept attacking their zone and getting to the rim.  Eventually shots started to fall which allowed us to get into our full court pressure.

2.  Can you comment on Jordan Jefferson's performance coming off the bench when Quadir got into some foul trouble?  It seemed like you had a nice rotation set up so Jordan could go in the game when the Trojans were on defense so as to keep Quadir from picking up his fifth foul.

Jordan did a fantastic job handling the point guard duties while Quadir was in foul trouble.  I don’t believe he had any turnovers in that span.  Jordan is also a tremendous defender.  He did a tremendous job defending Fisher from Somerset.


3.  Either at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth, Somerset mounted a mini comeback, I think getting the lead below ten points.  Was there anything you stressed during time out sessions to keep the guys focused because shortly after that period, the team got the bigger lead back?

We told them to settle down.  On some possessions we were playing like we were the team that was trailing.  Usually at that point of the game we call it “lay ups and free throws” because that is all we are allowed to shoot.  We had a few guys take some tough lay ups so we had to re-define the term lay up.  We settled down after that and were able to build the lead back up.


4.  Can you talk about the adversity the team has come back from in the playoffs?  Both games they had to come from behind, although to a much lessor extent with Somerset but it still goes to show their character no?

There is no quit in this team.  The most important part that I have seen change over time is that when they face adversity they work together to get back in the game.  Early in the season, they may have pointed fingers and placed the blame on someone and then try to go out and bring the team back by themselves.  These guys have matured a great deal over the season.  They understand the importance of working together toward a common goal.


5.  Last week, you talked about your goals for every season and winning a district title was among them.  How does this one rate to the others in that you were able to accomplish it during your first year on the bench with the Trojans?

As a new coach, you feel a little pressure to justify you being hired and in my case justify leaving an outstanding program in which we built.  You want to make a mark the first season.  I wasn’t sure it was going to happen this year but I thought if things came together that we would have a chance.  Things did come together and the kids bought into our system.  It reminds me a lot of our first year at Westmont when we won the district title. 

It is hard to compare this championship to the others.  They are all special.  I think of all the great teams and coaches that never get the chance to play in or coach in a district championship.  We have now played in 7 the last 11 years, winning 5 of them.  I cherish everyone because you never know when you are going to get back.


6.  What can you tell us about Lancaster Catholic?  I've heard they like to shoot the three a lot but other than that, they are a mystery.  Also, it's got to be pretty nice to have the game at Richland where you'll most likely have a home court advantage.

Fortunately with our championship game being last Wednesday, we were able to travel east on Thursday to watch Lancaster Catholic play Steel High at Hempfield.  They are a real solid and disciplined team.  They have two outstanding shooters in #5 Markel and #23 Purvis.  Purvis comes from good blood lines as I believe his brother plays football at Boston College.  They have a real solid big man in #50 Hall.  They don’t have anyone over 6’4” but all of their starters are over 6’0” so they have good overall size.  The point guard #11 is real efficient.  He doesn’t score much, but he does a great job of running his team. 

They play man to man defense as well as a 2-3 zone and some match up zone as well.  They do press some running a 2-2-1, 1-2-1-1, and full court man. 

We have to try speed them up and wear them down.  We must take them out of their comfort zone.

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