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Jeannette youth basketball team enjoys season of success

| Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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The 2013 Running Rebels are, in front, Alora Dunmire, Tavon Briston, Tyriq Blake, Toby Cline and Luke Harbaugh. In back are Alize Cooper, Ahsan Hetherington, Elijah Cooper and Nico DeCaro. Coaches are Jesse Bone and Dan Cooper.

The City of Jeannette rallies around its sports teams — that is always true — whether it is one of the high school's varsity programs, or a group of third-and fourth-graders participating in a youth developmental basketball program, Jeannette residents always come through.

“The support I have received from people in Jeannette has been amazing,” said Dan Cooper, head coach of the aforementioned Jeannette youth basketball program.

“Without that support we could never make this happen.”

What happened was a tremendous turnaround from a season ago — the program's first — when the group did not manage to win a game.

This season, the group won them all and, as a reward for their efforts, entered two tournaments to showcase their talent.

The team earned the tournament appearances by going 13-0 against teams from Greensburg, Norwin, Hempfield, Southmoreland, Penn-Trafford, Ligonier Valley, Connellsville, Latrobe and Plum.

Jeannette advanced to the semi-finals of a tournament a few weeks ago at Aquinas Academy in Greensburg before bowing out to an all-star team from Hempfield.

The team was set to play in another tournament — this one to be held in Hempfield.

On the floor, Jeannette is led in scoring by Sani Heatherington, Elijah Cooper and Nick Dicario. Toby Cline has handled duties at point guard while Tyriq Blake has been a stalwart on defense – the strength of the team.

“We are very good defensively,” said Cooper.

“Even last year when we did not win a game, our defense was very good.”

The developmental program would not exist in Jeannette without off-floor contributions from local businesses and residents who have pitched in to make the program a success.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney sponsored shooting shirts, a Jeannette-based construction company sponsored uniforms and dozens of residents helped to support the team through donations and fund-raising efforts.

“We have received so much generosity from the community,” said Cooper.

“Adrian Batts, the high school coach, has given some of his time to help us and Rick Pitzer (owner of Pitzer's Restaurant in Jeannette) gives us a room in his restaurant and pizza so we can watch game film and have a good snack.”

Cooper said the support of Jeannette residents and businesses is evidence of the pride the community takes in its sports teams and in its young people.

“They do it because they want the best opportunities for our young people” said Cooper.

“They do it because they believe in our kids.”

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.

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