Shaler edges Pine-Richland
At a glance, the Shaler Titans and Pine-Richland Rams are having decent seasons. Pine-Richland's record is 8-7 and Shaler sits at 7-8, but the one common thread is the fact the teams were 1-7 in section play as of the weekend.
When these Section 3 rivals clashed, notching a win in the section was important, and both teams played that way. The game went down to the wire, but a late 3-pointer by Geno Thorpe gave Shaler a six-point lead with time dwindling in a 66-60 win.
“We did a better job on defense (against Pine-Richland),” Thorpe said. “We knew they had a couple shooters, and we did a good job defending them.”
Pine-Richland's Dean Steliotes knocked down a 3-pointer to get the Rams going, but Shaler followed that spark with an 18-4 run that left the Rams digging their way out much of the game.
The Rams caught a break when Thorpe had to sit with three fouls in the third quarter and Jake Mathias fouled out.
With the Titans a little short-handed, Brock Baranowski and Shea Sullivan got to work for the Rams. Baranowski scored a quick bucket, and Sullivan grabbed the Titans' inbound pass for a three-point play.
Pat Sullivan got a good look at a 3-pointer, and he made good on the shot for Pine-Richland.
With less than four minutes to play, the score was 54-51 in favor of Shaler.
“We had the game down to three points with 3:11 left,” Pine-Richland coach Brian Gaetano said. “It was a new game at that point.
“We pressed, which is not something we do. We are athletic enough to do it against some teams and got them (Shaler) rattled, but that only works when you have momentum.”
Gaetano said he was not sure if that sort of style of play can be maintained over 32 minutes.
“When you dig a hole like we did, it is very, very difficult to get out of it,” Gaetano said.
Baranowski fouled out in that late stretch and with his departure seemed to go the Rams' spark.
Pat Sullivan and Shea Sullivan combined for 20 points in the second half to give the Rams a chance at the end.
Shaler coach Paul Holzshu threw a defense at the Rams the Titans had yet to show this season.
“I felt it was the right time to show it,” Holzshu said. “It was based off their personnel, and for the most part it was pretty effective. Pine-Richland figured some stuff out and made some adjustments at the half.
“We were 0-6 in the section up to this point, and I was disappointed in some of our breakdowns late, but this is the first time we were in this situation and I hope these kids learned from it.”
Shaler is the back-to-back defending Section 3 champion, but only Thorpe remains from those teams' prominent or role players.
The senior forward had to adjust from being merely a go-to guy in the clutch to a leader and mentor to a group of largely inexperienced players.
“I have got to lead now,” Thorpe said. “When guys are down, I have to pick them up, and when they do well, I have to reward them.
“I have to be the one getting them involved.”
Thorpe has done that. He scored 30 against Pine-Richland (Thorpe is among the WPIAL leaders in scoring), but Zach Weaver chipped in 14, Greg Lydon added eight and Lou Ferraro knocked down seven.
“This is a new role for Geno,” Holzshu said. “He scored and distributed tonight, but I am actually most pleased with his defense. “
Holzshu also noted that Lydon and Weaver have taken steps this season and still can improve.
“We were without Billy Reinheimer tonight, but Mathias and Chris Brasile came in and did positive things,” Holzshu said.
Although the start to the section schedule has been rocky, the Titans' mentality to get back at it in practice and take things as they come.
Gaetano said the locker room was down after the Shaler loss.
“This is not a situation we saw ourselves in,” he said. “This is a prideful group, and our goal is the playoffs ... that is a long shot now.
“We can play with anyone. We have to figure out our mind set and see what type of character we have.”