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Cheswick Christian boys chasing SWCAC title

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 1:21 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Senior and top returning scorer Tyler Knupp goes to the hoop against freshman Andy Skledar during a recent practice at Cheswick Christian Academy. Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch

The Cheswick Christian Academy boys basketball team has flown under the radar for most of the season, but that won't be easy to do much longer after posting 11 consecutive victories to clinch first place in the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference.

The Chargers won the regular season championship for the first time since claiming back-to-back titles in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Coach Todd Rosio's preseason goals are coming to fruition, but the team still has a few obstacles to conquer.

“The main thing we set out for every year is to win our division,” Rosio said. “It's one thing that we can control and is winnable for us. I'm proud of our guys for clinching the East Division.”

JaJuan Malloy, a junior, from Pittsburgh's South Side, is excited about the Chargers' chances in the playoffs.

“Last year we were an OK team,” Malloy said, “but we have been practicing as a team, getting better each day, and playing better as the year went by.”

Antione Malloy, the Chargers' point guard and JaJuan's younger brother, credits the team's success to a lot of open gym practices over the summer.

“My brother and I have been really working, and we've learned how to make good passes,” Malloy said.

Saturday's game against Harvest Baptist at Penn State New Kensington could be a championship preview for the two Christian schools. Earlier this season, Cheswick Christian beat Harvest by nine. Rosio said if the Chargers can get to the championship game, he expects to see Harvest Baptist there as well.

“It should be a fun game,” Rosio said. “It's going to be a challenging game because they're the champs from the West Division. The game doesn't count for the regular season standings, but we've been eyeing each other up across the divisions all year. We're two pretty evenly matched teams.”

When the Chargers won earlier this season, Harvest was without point guard Caleb Skelly, who broke his wrist and missed a month. Cheswick Christian senior Ian Swartz also was injured with an ankle sprain. This time, both teams are fully healthy.

“I think we can win, and we're feeling pretty good about this one,” Antione Malloy said.

JaJuan Malloy said the team's offseason preparation and work ethic during practice puts the Chargers over the top.

“We're ready,” Malloy said. “We've been talking about it all week, and we're ready to play them. It's a fun game, it's competitive, and we always get pumped up when we play Harvest.”

The Chargers' regular season wraps up Friday against First Baptist. The SWCAC playoffs will commence the following Monday at Aquinas Academy. After Monday's round, the playoffs will be at Penn State New Kensington.

The only time Rosio's team would see Harvest again after Saturday is in the championship game.

“We're guaranteed the No. 1 seed from the East Division, and we could know who we are playing as early as Friday,” Rosio said.

“We would play the No. 4 team from the West Division, and there's a number of teams we could play.”

The Malloy brothers have been complemented by a senior class that hopes to leave Cheswick Christian as champions, including senior captains Ben Johnson and Andrew Maust, as well as Tyler Knupp, who leads the team in scoring at 12 points per game.

Jesse Huba is a freelance writer.

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