Playoff-bound Knoch eases past Valley
Knoch had already clinched a WPIAL playoff berth before tipoff Tuesday night against Valley.
But Knights coach Ron McNabb approached the game as if a postseason spot was still on the line.
The Knights responded by opening up a big first-quarter lead and rolling to a 60-24 victory over the Vikings in Section 1-AAA play.
Mars' victory over Freeport on Monday night secured Knoch's 21st WPIAL playoff entry in school history.
“Actually, I don't think most of these guys knew that Freeport losing clinched it for us — and I didn't share it with them,” McNabb said. “We had a tough game down at Valley, and I wanted our guys to come out relaxed and play.”
McNabb has taken three different local schools to the WPIAL playoffs, including Valley and Burrell in previous coaching stints.
David Gallagher scored 18 points to lead three players in double figures for the Knights (11-9, 6-5), who ended the first quarter with a 13-1 run to take command.
“I like the way we started out,” McNabb said. “I thought we did a lot of things. I like how we shared the ball and worked.”
Valley, on the other hand, is clearly going in another direction.
The Vikings (3-16, 1-11) started three freshmen and a sophomore in their section finale.
But coach Phil Cope didn't approach the game any different than if he had five upperclassmen taking the floor.
“Teaching mode has been going on all year long,” he said. “There's not at any time a non-teachable moment with high school kids. Even with the older kids out there, there's always teaching.”
One of the freshmen, DeAundre Johnson, had 18 of his team's 24 points.
Freshman Tyson Hill grabbed nine rebounds for Valley and fellow ninth-grader Jordan Frame had six.
Matt Zanella, the Knights' valuable sixth man, came off the bench to score 13 points, including 11 during Knoch's big second quarter.
Mark Vaughn, playing despite some sore ribs, contributed 12 points for the Knights, who will learn their playoff opponent Tuesday at the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting.
George Guido is a freelance writer.