Kiski Area boys team surging into second half with a purpose
Kiski Area had just been dealt an unsavory, mostly uneventful and downright dull 37-28 loss to Norwin, which dropped the Cavaliers' record to 0-2 in Section 1-AAAA.
Not long after, coach Harry Rideout grabbed the remote control and turned out the lights on his team.
It was a what-can-we-do-better session not meant to downgrade the players, but to show them that they were going about it all wrong.
“We spent four hours watching film,” Rideout said. “The guys are getting a better understanding of what I expect of them, what I am getting at in my approach.
“We've been able to have success from that point on.”
Kiski Area (10-4 overall, 4-2 section) is 7-1 since and takes a five-game winning streak into Friday's home game against Latrobe (9-6, 4-2).
“We're far more disciplined than we were before,” Rideout said. “We're valuing the ball much better and shot selection is much better. It's a big assortment of little things that have turned into big things.”
Sounds complicated. But it's just the opposite. A 16-win team last season, the Cavaliers have learned to share the basketball, play smarter defense and set the tone early in games while finding a way to finish.
“We have a different attitude, a defensive attitude,” senior guard Adam Robison said. “Coach knows what he's talking about. He's been in the WPIAL championship and state semis (as an assistant with Mt. Lebanon). We just said, ‘Let's hop on board with him.' We had individuals doing their own thing. It was a wake-up call.”
His advice simple, Rideout's game plans can be complex. Kiski Area doesn't just roll the ball out and run. Players sometimes feel like they could use wristbands, like quarterbacks, to make sure they're in the right plays.
“We don't play the same way every night,” Rideout said. “It's like football; we have different packages for different teams.”
Kiski Area's rejuvenated play — and demonstration that it can run the floor or go half-court — has produced impressive wins over Butler (52-39), Keystone Oaks (87-76), Penn-Trafford (56-41) and Hempfield (39-35).
But the one loss during its recent surge could be the best example of how far the team's come.
The Cavaliers nearly upset Class AAAA power Hampton, which had been ranked as high as No. 2, falling by a thread-thin margin of 54-53 in the final of the Hampton Tournament.
“We were up eight late, too, and let them back in it,” Rideout said. “We showed that if we play like we're capable of, we can play with anyone.”
To Kiski Area, smarter basketball means successful basketball, and fewer mistakes, especially against daunting teams like Hampton, could make all the difference.
“We've really been cutting down on turnovers; that cost us in a lot of games early in the season,” senior guard Nick Stone said. “Coach has put it in perspective for us. We think we can go undefeated the rest of the season. You don't know which game might be your last.”
Kiski Area hopes to be fresh Friday night when the second half of section play begins. Part of a seven-team section that gives teams off nights, the Cavaliers haven't played in six days. On Tuesday, a normal game day, they practiced with purpose.
“We treated it like a game day; we went hard,” Robison said. “We had the scoreboard on, with the clock running. And Wednesday and Thursday are normal practice days. We should be fine.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the Local Sports Editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.