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Latrobe boys basketball team getting better with age

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 8:43 p.m.
Latrobe senior guard Blake Reeping and senior forward Will Wears run through blocking drills during practice on Thursday evening, November 29, at the Greater Latrobe Senior High School gym. Rebecca Emanuele | For the Tribune-Review
Latrobe sophomore guard Matt Cullen makes some practice shots on Thursday evening, November 29, at the Greater Latrobe Senior High School gym. Rebecca Emanuele | For the Tribune-Review

A senior-heavy team that has had its rotation largely remain the same over the past two seasons, Latrobe's players know each other on and off the court.

When it comes to Latrobe boys basketball, these Wildcats see each other as equals.

“When I say this, I mean it: In eight games, we probably have had four or five different people be the leading scorer once or twice each,” coach Brad Wetzel said. “We don't have one go-to guy; we do everything by committee.

“What's nice to see is just how positive the energy is. Everybody seems to be on board and working their tails off, and right now we have a team with no stars — just a group of hardworking kids who are getting better.”

The early results show it for Latrobe, which is coming off its first non-playoff season in six years. The Wildcats have won four of their past five games to improve to 5-3 heading into a game Wednesday against Altoona.

“We had a team last year that was kind of thrown to the wolves, so we looked at last year's team as an almost two-year season,” Wetzel said. “A whole crop of juniors with ... (little) experience, so we knew we'd have some trying moments. But I thought they knuckled down and learned a lot last year, and we carried that gradual improvement over to this year.

“We're trying to peak at the right time — hopefully that's somewhere toward the end of January.”

No fewer than five seniors are part of Latrobe's rotation: 6-foot point guard Ben Havrilla, 6-6 swingman Mike Soforic, 6-2 guard Blake Reeping and forwards 6-3 Will Wears and 6-2 Matt Dunlap.

Reeping has been a varsity contributor since his sophomore season, Soforic has grown — literally — into being the Wildcats' leading scorer, and Havrilla serves as team captain. Wetzel calls Wears “as good a rebounder as I've seen in 10 years coaching basketball” and equates Dunlap into being a proverbial coach on the floor.

Among underclassmen key contributors, 6-foot sophomore guard Matt Cullen has the explosiveness and scoring ability “to develop into a tremendous high school basketball player,” Wetzel said.

Sophomore Chad Kissell and freshman Sean Graytok are guards who come off the bench and provide quality minutes.

“We do have chemistry; we don't have any selfishness and we don't have any problems,” Wetzel said.

“Everybody has a role,” Wears said. “Some nights, it's someone's role to score a lot and everyone else has something else to do. If someone's hot, we have to not be selfish and get him the ball if it's their night. The next night, it could be someone else. That's all part of maturity and playing together as a team.”

Less than a year removed from an 8-14 season, Latrobe won't provide explicit goals for the season. But it's clear the Wildcats are thinking bigger.

“It's a cliche, but we just want to get better every day, to be better than we were last year and maximize our potential and get more out of ourselves,” Wears said. “I don't think we have any goals set in stone like make the playoffs or win a certain amount of games — that all comes when you reach your potential as a team.

“I think we definitely could make some noise in the WPIAL playoffs, but the main goal is to be as good as we possibly can. That's what coach Wetzel would say.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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