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Clairton eager to start next title chase

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 1:21 a.m.
Clairton's Titus Howard kneels on the court as Vincentian wins the boys Class A WPIAL championship at March 1, 2013, at Palumbo Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Clairton rookie coach Matt Geletko touched on every point while rattling off the scouting report on first-round state playoff opponent Cochranton.

• It isn't very big.

• It is a guard-oriented team.

• It likes to shoot 3-pointers.

• It likes to trap on defense.

• Its best player might not play.

But with all due respect to the District 10 runner-up Cardinals, it really doesn't matter what they do at 7:30 Friday night at Plum.

“Actually, our biggest worry is ourselves,” Geletko said.

Clairton lost in the last week's WPIAL Class A championship game to Vincentian. It was the first time the Clairton senior class ever lost in any championship game — district or state — in nine opportunities.

Clairton had not lost in a title matchup since a 35-16 loss to Steelton-Highspire in the 2008 PIAA Class A finals — the year these current seniors were in eighth grade. Their only loss on the football field was a 15-8 loss at Laurel in the first game of their freshman year.

And when the entire team was together this year, they were undefeated until the loss to Vincentian.

And the Bears didn't take it well.

“It hurt us so bad because it's like a war that we lost,” Clairton senior Tyler Boyd said. “We never lose wars, and it's just something we can't take.”

Geletko thinks the loss might end up being a positive.

“I think it might be a wakeup call for us,” Geletko said. “They saw what it took to win in hoops. I think there might have been a little letdown after that (semifinal) game against Lincoln Park. That took a huge effort on our part.”

Still, Geletko realized the disappointment after the WPIAL finals loss and felt that it was a good time to give his team an extra day off, on Monday, before preparing for the state playoffs.

“They took the loss hard, as we all did,” Geletko said. “We came out strong in practice since then, though. They were anxious to get back to work and get back at it. This is new to them as far as basketball goes. We have been ready to go, and we really couldn't ask for anything more about how practice went this week. Now we are eager to get this next tournament started.”

Clairton (16-7) will face a Cochranton (16-9) team that will be without its top scorer Nick Dickson, who is averaging around 15 points. Dickson injured his knee during the 58-37 loss to Kennedy Catholic in the District 10 title game March 1 and never returned.

“He is a big part of their offense,” Geletko said.

The Cardinals have lost three of their past five games. Logan Herzberger scores about 13 points per game, and fellow juniors Josh Vanderhoof and Garrett Adams are averaging 10 each.

Clairton is led by Boyd, Titus Howard, Bryon Clifford, Armani Ford and Terrish Webb.

“Where we struggled against Vincentian is with our bench,” Geletko said. “We weren't deep at all, and it caught up to us. If we can put a win or two together, we can be dangerous.”

Clairton is on the less fierce side of the Class A bracket opposite Kennedy Catholic, Vincentian and Lincoln Park.

“This is all new for these guys as far as basketball,” Geletko said. “They thought that it only took two games to get to the state championship instead of four.”

The winner will take on Smethport (22-3) or Bishop Guilfoyle (20-5) on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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