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North Allegheny boys not threatened by section newcomers

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 10:22 p.m.
Christopher Horner
North Allegheny's R.J. Colabrese defends against Seneca Valley's R.J. McCauley during their game in McCandless. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio yells from the bench during a game against Seneca Valley in McCandless. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
North Allegheny's James Meeker drives to the basket against Seneca Valley's Eric Woods during their game in McCandless. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Despite the preseason hype, North Allegheny won't simply surrender Section 3 to the newcomers.

Especially not now.

“All we've been hearing about is Hampton and New Castle,” NA guard R.J. Colabrese said. “Initially, we were a little skeptical about them coming into our section, but now we're excited to show them what Quad-A is all about.”

The three teams were undefeated before Tuesday, when No. 3 North Allegheny used 13 3-pointers to beat No. 2 Hampton, 74-65. Now three days later, the Tigers face No. 1 New Castle with soaring confidence.

“If we can knock both off in the same week, we'll gain a lot of respect from around the league,” Colabrese said.

New Castle and Hampton were Class AAA finalists last season before enrollment figures moved them up a classification. Both returned the majority of last year's rosters, making them favorites to return to Palumbo Center. Coaches in Section 3 weren't pleased to see the pair join their now-brutal neighborhood, but NA embraced the challenge.

“We're going to battle them, that's for sure,” NA coach Dave DeGregorio said. “The kids realize it's going to be a tough section, and they're excited to play.”

North Allegheny and New Castle have matching records: 11-0 overall, 5-0 in Section 3. They also have similar styles. Both will pressure the other team's point guard and favor an up-tempo pace. The Tigers average 74.9 points, second in Quad-A to New Castle's 81.4.

NA's strength has been behind the 3-point line, where five players have made at least 10 shots.

The Tigers use a guard-heavy offense, with no player in their 10-man rotation taller than 6-foot-4. Senior guard Sean Hennigan has averaged 16 points, and junior guard Joe Mancini averages 14.

“We've kind of morphed into a team that's shooting a lot of 3s,” DeGregorio said. “We shot 28 threes in the first half (against Hampton). That just sort of who we've become. ... There's not one guy who steps on the floor who can't shoot the 3.”

Mancini has made 30 3-pointers, Hennigan has 27, Luke Soyster has 22, James Meeker has 17, and Adam Haus has 13. Most are either transition baskets or kickouts from the Tigers' dribble-drive offense. Colabrese, their point guard, had 11 assists against Hampton.

“I think it becomes a tough thing to guard,” DeGregorio said. “You can't pick one or two guys. You've got to guard everybody who's on the floor.”

It seemed as though the WPIAL schedule makers weren't kind to the Tigers, making them play their toughest two opponents in a five-day span. That will happen again in early February, when they travel to Hampton and New Castle. But right now, NA sees an opportunity.

“I definitely think it could be a good thing,” Colabrese said. “After the win over Hampton, our confidence is up and we've got a lot of momentum.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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