Linton boys hoops teams post perfect seasons
When a middle-school team goes undefeated, it's cause to celebrate.
When four teams from the same middle school go undefeated in the same school year, it's cause to sit up and take notice.
At Linton Middle School, both the seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball teams posted undefeated seasons. That comes on the heels of the girls basketball team and boys soccer team going undefeated this past fall.
“We had a great group of athletes,” said eighth-grade coach Charles Buttgereit, who is in his 35th year coaching hoops at Penn Hills. “But it takes a little bit of good fortune, too.”
Buttgereit said he knew his team had the potential to do something special.
“The seventh-grade team last year (this year's eighth-graders) only lost one game, so we knew it was going to be a good group,” he said.
Seventh-grade coach Josh Johnson, who saw his group play as sixth-graders, also had a good feeling about the season.
“I knew what I was getting as they came up,” he said.
One advantage both coaches cited was a full roster throughout the season.
“You have to have good players and good skill, but this was also a very academically skilled team,” Buttgereit said. “We didn't have one academic casualty, which is unusual.
“They're hard workers, and that translated from the classroom to the court.”
Both coaches credited the youth basketball program started by coach Melanie Franciscus for developing players early.
“In this day and age, it's not like it was when kids were playing basketball for three months out of the year and that was it. Now these kids are playing from first grade on,” Buttgereit said.
Parent Darrell Holloway has coached his son, eighth-grade team member Darrell Jr., from fourth grade all the way through eighth, and has had a chance, whether through Fransciscus' program or the YMCA basketball program, to coach all of his sons at one point or another.
Darrell Jr., 14, said his favorite part of the season was just being with his teammates. Both coaches agreed.
“They're a great group of kids,” Buttgereit said. “Just being with them was fun. If we'd not won a game all year, I'd still have had a lot of fun because of this group.”
“They kept me on my toes, and they made me laugh all the time,” Johnson said.
While some of the team's games were close contests into the second half, the result was not in doubt very often. Buttgereit and Johnson said getting the boys to buy into the concept of pressure defense was key.
“We challenged them to play all man-to-man defense, full-court press all year long,” Buttgereit said. “That can be hard for seventh- and eighth-graders to keep pace with, and I think that experience will translate to success on the varsity level.”
Johnson said a lot of his kids were used to playing zone defense, “so we had to get them used to the pace of high-school ball. And we both had enough depth that we could really wear teams down.”
Both coaches felt that, because of the district's youth program and the success their teams have had this season, a solid foundation is in place for the future of Penn Hills basketball.
Holloway Jr. agreed.
“We'll be good,” he said with a smile.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.