Inaugural WCCA Summer Shootout deemed a success
There was no champion crowned at the inaugural Westmoreland County Coaches Association Basketball Shootout, but the day wasn't about which teams won or lost — stress is for the winter season, when it counts, coaches echoed. The shootout was about the WCCA having a basketball presence again, and a strong turnout and quality play is proof the event has a future.
Organizers wanted a “fun day of basketball” and got one Friday afternoon at Hempfield High School.
“There's good basketball here (in Westmoreland County),” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “It's very good competition. The first year for the shootout went perfectly.”
A WPIAL Class 6A semifinalist last season, Latrobe stated a strong case for the best team among the 13 in attendance. Quick-paced Valley took the Wildcats to overtime before Latrobe pulled out a 62-59 win in a thrilling final game of the day on the main court to finish 3-0.
“They had this back when my dad played,” said Latrobe swingman Reed Fenton. “It's great to see all the county teams together. We have 14 guys here, and it's nice to get out and compete.”
Hempfield coach Bill Swan believed the county needed an event akin to those the WCCA operates in football, wrestling, swimming, track and field and other sports.
“We don't do anything together,” Swan said of the county's teams. “We're talking about maybe doing a tip-off tournament or an in-season shootout in the future. Westmoreland teams need to get together and have better representation for basketball. The coaches' association runs things first class.”
Teams participating Friday included Belle Vernon, Connellsville, Derry, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Southmoreland and Valley. Each played three games. And a crowd looked on.
Spectators sat around the sidelines in the main gym, and others dotted the bleachers in Hempfield's auxiliary gym. Three games were played on an hourly rotation on the main floor and sidecourts, while one was contested each hour in the old gym.
“I thanked (Swan), I don't know how many times, for doing this,” Kiski Area coach Joey Tutchstone said. “I think it's good to come together as a county. Any time the kids are in the gym playing, getting better, working hard, it's a good thing.”
The shootout broke up the normal summer-time routine for teams that usually play in leagues and go to team camps at this time of year. They didn't have to go far for this get-together. Many players drove themselves to Hempfield.
For Steve Scorpion, Franklin Regional's just-hired coach, it was a chance to see his team in action against varsity competition.
“The effort was there, and our kids got after it,” said Scorpion, a Franklin Regional alum. “We have some things to work on yet, but we're fortunate we have the summer to clean it up.”
Scorpion plans to implement schemes he learned as an assistant last season at Penn Hills and when he was head coach at The Kiski School. He said his players have been receptive.
“We're putting in some quick-hitters,” he said. “I want my guys to make plays, not stand around. They are picking things up well and listening.”
Many coaches believe a summer shootout is long overdue.
Teams like Jeannette have had limited summer workouts so far because of an extended baseball season and football recruiting trips. Friday gave Batts a chance to take a look at what he has coming back next season, including rising juniors A.J. Sharp, a Greensburg Salem transfer, and 6-foot-4 Anthony Johnson, who sat out most of last season after the WPIAL and PIAA ruled him ineligible after he transferred from Allderdice.
Jeannette had only had five summer-league games before the shootout.
“It's good for the county schools to get together and have one place to play,” Batts said. “We want to do this annually. We think it can be a really great event.”
Swan and Batts, WCCA members, said a local all-star game also has been discussed, but is in very preliminary phases.