After fading last season, OLSH boys say they aren't looking ahead

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 10:38 p.m.

The cliche of taking each game one at a time carries a lot of weight around the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart boys basketball program.

Last season, after starting 10-0 heading into section play, the Chargers failed to reach the postseason, going 5-6 down the stretch. Coach Mike Rodriguez has his team in a similar position this season but hopes the results will be different.

“I don't think the kids are looking ahead at all this year,” Rodriguez said. “We have a job to do. They want to succeed, and everyone has realized what the ultimate goal is, which is to make the playoffs.”

The Chargers are off to another hot start this season, opening 8-1, including a 68-35 win over South Side Beaver on Wednesday. In this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature, we highlight Our Lady of the Sacred Heart for its third-place standing in Class A.

“I think things started for us in the summer,” Rodriguez said. “We played all summer long and went to some team camps and got a chance to see some glimpses of kids coming into their own.

“I am willing to attribute a lot of our early success to the work they put in the offseason.”

OLSH fields a young squad, but injuries and a talented bench have allowed several players to see significant playing time. It looked bleak early for the Chargers when senior point guard Stefan Arch suffered a concussion during football season, but his absence has been alleviated with the play of Moon transfer Cameron Johnson.

Johnson anchors a starting five that features senior Nick Luchini and juniors Kendall Paige, Ian Schrenk and Nick Metz. Rodriguez has been impressed with the improved play of Paige and Schrenk and expects big things from them. Rodriguez said Metz, a 6-foot-3 post player, is a strong rebounder.

Look to the Chargers' bench to find future starters in juniors Derek McMonagle, Nick Kocent and Evan Zernich and sophomores Hunter Zilakiy, Cedric Gray and Santino Platt.

Rodriguez said he likes that he can turn to the bench in any situation and knows there won't be a significant drop-off in production.

“I'm very proud of what this group has been able to accomplish to this point in the season, but they know we have a long way to go,” Rodriguez said. “To this point, especially with some of the talent, we've preached everyone is allowed to shoot ... if you are open to shoot.

“We can probably do a much better job in the defensive end and work on our weak-side defense because that's going to be important once we get into section play.”

With the memory of a midseason collapse entrenched in the back of their minds, the Chargers will look to get off to a good start Friday when they host Rochester in the Section 1-A opener.

“Like I keep saying, we've got a long way to go,” Rodriguez said. “We know what we have to do. Now we just have to go out and do it.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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