Penn-Trafford looking to stay in playoff contention after unlucky spell
If the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs started at the beginning of this week, the preseason favorite in Section 1-AAAA would be on the outside looking in.
An unlikely midseason swoon struck Penn-Trafford last week, as losses on Jan. 8 to Kiski Area, 56-41, and on Friday at Latrobe, 72-59, to drop the Warriors into fifth place as section play neared its midpoint.
Yet Penn-Trafford (8-5, 2-3) showed it still has the ability to be the team that was No. 9 in the preseason by beating Fox Chapel (10-3), 49-45, in the Coaches vs. Cancer Backyard Brawls at Seton Hill on Saturday, and perhaps that nonsection win can get the Warriors off to a fresh start.
“It's almost frustrating to win against Fox Chapel, if that makes any sense,” Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said. “We've had to address the fact that we're struggling on defense and rebounding, and I have to do a better job coaching to get these guys to buy in to what we're doing on defense.”
P-T had its share of bad luck during the losing streak, as well. Even when they defended well, the Warriors had no answer for senior Mike Soforic, who had six 3-pointers, including a pair of tough bank shots, on his way to a career-high 30 points for Latrobe (9-5, 4-1).
“Give Latrobe credit, they shot exceptionally well,” Yarosik said. “I thought our defense wasn't too bad against them, but things just started snowballing against us. Still, we realize that the only ones that are going to get us out of this slump is ourselves.”
The defensive effort to bounce back was there against Fox Chapel, and P-T needed every bit of it to rally from a 16-point halftime deficit and hold the Foxes to 15 points after halftime.
It also was a second good scoring night for Andy Abreu, who scored 19 against the Foxes — including 9-for-10 at the foul line — one day after he led P-T with 17 against Latrobe. Christian Rohaus added 10 points for P-T in the win over Fox Chapel.
This week will be a crucial one for Penn-Trafford in the section race. P-T was scheduled to host first-place Norwin in a girls/boys doubleheader on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline. The team also hosts last-place Albert Gallatin at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a must-win game if it is to move back into a playoff position.
“If you look at the standings (Monday), we'd be out. But we also recognize that this is a long season,” Yarosik said. “We can't control what the other teams in the section are doing, but we can control what we do.
“The one thing I will say about these kids is that, when they're backed into a corner, they're coming out throwing. We're not happy, but we're responsible for being there. I know our kids will come out and play well, but we'll have to see if that gets us some wins.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.