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Seton Hill knocks off Division-I opponent

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

It won't count on its record, but Seton Hill got the biggest win in its 10-year history of men's basketball.

The Griffins, coached by Trafford native Tony Morocco, pulled a preseason upset Nov. 6 when they picked up a win in Baltimore over Division-I Loyola (Md.), 72-67.

Exhibition or otherwise, it is the first time the still-growing program at Seton Hill, a Division II school, has beaten a team from the NCAA's top division. And as the only head coach in the program's history, Morocco was thrilled to see his team make another step forward.

“To beat a team of that caliber on their court in monumental,” Morocco said. “It gives our program so much credibility. It's the biggest win in my career here.”

Loyola is the preseason favorite to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, which makes the win even more special for a Seton Hill program that has faced schools such as Pitt and Duquense in previous seasons.

Morocco has more than 30 years of coaching experience, including stops at Iowa and UNLV in his past, but helping establish a program so close to his hometown makes Seton Hill's successes so special to the coach.

“Penn-Trafford is my school. My son was a great player there on the 1994 team, and my daughter teaches there,” Morocco said.

“I'm a great believer in western Pennsylvania. Some people say basketball is down here, but we still have quality players that come from this area that we would love to have on our team. Of course, you don't always get everyone you want.”

Morocco's team has WPIAL representation in Hempfield grad Nate Perry, who had two crucial 3-pointers in a 15-5 run to pull the team ahead of Loyola, as well as Moon grad Brandon Lioi. But to build the program, he has also turned to recruiting players from basketball hotbeds, most notably the Baltimore/D.C. metro area, which four of his players call home.

Still, the coach's loyalty to his hometown and Westmoreland County in general make him want to turn the Seton Hill program into a top destination for this area's best players.

“I'd love to be able to have my pick of the best kids from here. I was born and raised in Trafford, and I really believe that the kids from this area could make us a big-time winner on the national level,” Morocco said.

As for this year's Griffins, who began their regular season this week, Morocco hopes the win over Loyala can propel the team to greater heights.

“I told our kids, ‘The win at Loyala was not the finish line; the future is the finish line,'” the coach said. “We have an enormously difficult schedule, and we have a young team, but I believe we can play with anybody in the country.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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