Short-handed Clairton no match for Thomas Jefferson
Clairton seniors Tyler Boyd and Titus Howard had front-row seats to watch the Bears basketball team take on Thomas Jefferson on Wednesday in a nonsection game.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they were in street clothes and not in uniform.
Thomas Jefferson senior Joe Carroll scored a game-high 25 points, and Chase Winovich chipped in 18 to lead the Jaguars to a 79-47 blowout over Class A Clairton.
“It was hard because I want to be out there so bad, and I can't,” Howard said. “I'm trying everything in my power to get out there, but it isn't working.”
Howard, a Pitt football recruit, missed the final two games of the football playoffs when he dislocated his left (non-shooting) elbow in a state quarterfinals win over Berlin-Brothersvalley.
Boyd, who committed to play football at Pitt during the first half of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Saturday in San Antonio, has yet to play this season.
He was nursing a shoulder injury during the Bears' run to their fourth consecutive PIAA Class A title and was limited during the team's 20-0 victory over Dunmore in the state finals at Hersheypark Stadium on Dec. 14.
“It's real hard, especially when I can't go out there and help them,” Boyd said. “I'm just taking it easy since I got back from the U.S. Army game, but I should be back in a game or two. I haven't started basketball conditioning, but I have been lifting weights again, and the shoulder is all healed up.”
Both players are expected to see their first action on the hardwood in the next week, but the earliest the full Clairton team will be together is Saturday's nonsection matchup with Imani Christian. Senior guard Terrish Webb will be making an official football recruiting visit to Pitt on Friday and will miss the Bears' Section 3-A game against Avella.
“We don't have the game experience of playing together right now because it is a new system, and we're doing some things that they haven't seen before,” Clairton first-year coach Matt Geletko said. “I'm not going to know what to do when they come back because I'm going to have to work them in on the fly and throw them into the fire, but they've both been coming to practice and the know what we're trying to do.”
As a team, Clairton is still feeling the effects of its 16-game football season as the players played little if any basketball during the fall. Despite the fact they are not yet in basketball shape, the Bears are tied with Monessen for first place in Section 3-A, and their only losses are to Class AAA Thomas Jefferson and Trib Total Media Class AAAA No. 4 Gateway.
“We've only been together for two weeks with zero scrimmages, and there's still a lot of things we have to work on, but unfortunately we don't have the luxury of that. So we're still feeling our way through during a game,” Geletko said. “That (conditioning) definitely has something to do with it.”
Thomas Jefferson, meanwhile, needed a game like this to prepare for a pair of tough Section 3 matchups. The Jaguars will play at third-place Steel Valley (8-3, 3-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday then will host first-place West Mifflin (9-2, 5-0) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Because of a quirk in the schedule, the Titans will have a week to prepare for Thomas Jefferson.
“We've been playing well, and, again, we haven't played teams the caliber of Steel Valley or West Mifflin, so we'll find out about ourselves come Friday,” Thomas Jefferson coach Dom DeCicco said. “Friday is going to be a great atmosphere, Tuesday here is going to be an unbelievable atmosphere, and I just think that will get you ready for the playoffs.”