Unselfishness key for Mt. Pleasant boys in Section 3 race
In the first year of Tony Splendore's second stint as boys basketball coach at Mt. Pleasant, the Vikings have been in contention for a section title.
Mt. Pleasant (8-5, 4-2) entered Thursday's nonsection home game against Elizabeth Forward one game behind Section 3-AAA co-leaders Uniontown and Laurel Highlands.
In a career spanning nearly 40 years, it would be Splendore's first championship as a boys coach.
Splendore is the Vikings' third boys coach in as many years.
He succeeded Jeremy Yetter, who took over in 2011-12 following the death of longtime coach Tom Traynor, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in May 2011.
“I started coaching in 1972, and I've been with it ever since,” said Splendore, 62, who is in his 15th season as either boys or girls basketball coach at Mt. Pleasant.
He has served in various assistants' roles at Mt. Pleasant and neighboring Southmoreland during the remainder of the time.
While Splendore has won two section titles as coach of the Mt. Pleasant girls program, he may be best known as the school's longtime boys and girls tennis teams.
“Thirty-nine years,” Splendore said.
He has been pleased with the Vikings' togetherness on and off the basketball court.
“We've been successful because of our unselfishness,” he said.
The starting lineup varies from game-to-game; Splendore has maintained throughout the season a willingness to mix-and-match his roster.
“We don't have a starting five,” he said. “We've tried to impress to these guys that we have a starting seven or eight.”
Juniors Ryan Gumbita (11.3 points per game) and Marcus Malara (10.1) were leading Mt. Pleasant in scoring. Just two seniors appear on the roster.
“I'm proud of this team's work ethic,” Splendore said. “They are a young team, but they have a togetherness about them. The boys have adapted well to a new style of play.”
According to Splendore, the high school game has changed significantly over the years because coaches “are in more control with various offenses and play-calling.”
He is encouraged that the Vikings have been able to increase their scoring output in time after a slow start.
“We want to average more than what we had been,” he said. “We've been looking to step up the tempo a bit. We're scoring close to 60 points a game now.”
Mt. Pleasant opened the year with losses to Class AAAA Norwin and Penn-Trafford, averaging just 35 points.
“I think there will be a shot clock in high school basketball in the future,” he said. “That will speed up the pace somewhat.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.