McKee Middle School team wins Hempfield tourney
By Dave Moio
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Sam Sunder has a gift for Jeannette High School and boys basketball head coach Adrian Batts — a promising future.
Sunder, head coach of Jeannette's McKee Middle School boys basketball program, coached two teams to a combined 35-1 record including a mark of 20-0 from his eighth-grade squad. Sunder cited several key reasons for the team's success including tangibles like talent and speed, and intangibles like competitiveness and unselfishness.
“This is definitely one of the best groups I have ever had,” said Sunder. “They were easy to coach and picked up on fundamentals.”
Jeannette's season started with a non-league win over Greensburg Salem, and included 14 Section II wins — two each over the other seven teams in the league — and five wins in the course of winning a tournament hosted by Hempfield.
Sunder concedes that the section competition was not as good as it has been in years past, but said that does nothing to diminish his team's accomplishments in 2013.
“We never played down to our competition,” said Sunder. “We kept our intensity up against everyone and always played hard.”
Sunder's team did face some tough competition during the season, particularly in the Hempfield tournament, and rose to the challenge.
“We beat Hempfield's A-team twice and Norwin,” said Sunder. “We beat a very good Shaler team in the championship game to win the tournament.”
Sunder said his team's defining characteristic was defense.
“We played some games where we probably could have held our opponent scoreless,” said Sunder. “They were great defensively all year.”
Since Jeannette does not have a freshman basketball program, players from the eighth-grade team will have to compete for spots on the high school's varsity and junior varsity teams. Sunder said while his entire roster contributed to the undefeated season, eighth-graders Kareem Hall, Mike Pompei and Mark Warmack have a very good shot at spots on the varsity or junior varsity high school teams.
You're welcome, Coach Batts, from Coach Sunder.
Dave Moio is a freelance writer.
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