Keystone Oaks boys basketball embracing high expectations

Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

There are some pretty high expectations for the Keystone Oaks boys basketball team heading into the 2012-13 season.

The Golden Eagles had a breakout campaign last season, going 20-3 — including a 12-0 mark in Section 4-AAA action.

While some coaches might shy away from talking about living up to expectations, second-year Keystone Oaks coach Gene Mercuri is embracing it.

“Anytime you have success, it brings expectations with it,” Mercuri said. “It is what we want. We are trying to build a program. We want people to expect us to play well and win.”

It may be a bit harder to repeat the same results as last season. The Golden Eagles were moved from Section 4-AAA to 5-AAA, which is becoming one of the toughest conferences in Class AAA.

Keystone Oaks must dealf with Chartiers Valley, McGuffey, Montour, South Fayette, South Park and Waynesburg if it hopes to make a return to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

“You want to go out every night and battle,” Mercuri said. “Whatever teams get into the playoffs will be battle tested.”

Keystone Oaks will be led by the return of Cory Sevacko and Jared Skolnicki.

The seniors started for the Golden Eagles last season and bring a high level of athleticism to the court.

Sophomore Kobe Phillippi makes his return after receiving a large number of minutes last season. Juniors Braydon Griffiths and Taylor Lehman round out the starting five.

Keystone Oaks will have plenty of depth: Juniors Walt Hepner, Declan Hartnett and freshman Erat Ojok will get time off the bench.

“We have some sophomores working hard,” Mercuri said. “Mike Orosz has been busting his butt and is fighting for time, as well.”

Keystone Oaks hosted a tipoff tournament last week, and the Golden Eagles walked away 2-0. On Friday, Keystone Oaks downed Bishop Canevin, 70-54. Sevacko led the team with 27 points.

Keystone Oaks defeated Hopewell, 69-61, on Saturday.

The strong start has the Golden Eagles on the right path. Mercuri said while the team is preparing for a brutal section slate, the team has set the bar high.

“Our goals are never going to change,” Mercuri said. “It is a not a goal to play hard — we do that. It is what we are supposed to do. We want to try and win the section. We want to get in the playoffs and see what we can do from there.

“Our goals will never change from that. We are going to shoot for the ceiling.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-388-5813.

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