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South Fayette boys basketball playing the waiting game

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Keystone Oaks' Kobe Phillippi (left) and Cory Sevacko pressure South Fayette's Nick McKee during their game Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 at South Fayette High School.

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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

While the community watches with anticipation as the South Fayette football team makes its trek through the PIAA, Lions basketball coach Rich Bonnaure is holding his breath for a different reason.

Eleven expected members of the basketball program are currently involved with the football team. And while the Lions do have 14 players in practice, many of the missing players are expected to be staters or key contributors, including senior Justin Watson, junior Brett Brumbaugh and freshman Cameron Garland.

“It is a good problem if you can call it that,” the 12th year coach said. “It does throw a wrench into what we're doing. We have 14 guys now but we will have to cut some once the football players are back in the gym.”

While it honored its commitment to play in the Fort Cherry Tipoff Tournament this past weekend, South Fayette postponed its opening games of the season against Hopewell, South Park and Shady Side Academy until later in the season.

Once the football players do come back, it will take time for them to get their basketball legs under them. Bonnaure is hoping the transition will be similar to the 2010-11 season when several football players returned after the state title game and the Lions ended up going 25-3 and reached the WPIAL Class AAA title game.

“Conditioning-wise it takes about two weeks,” Bonnaure said. “We do have a lot of depth, so that should help that. You just never know if they missed too much skill work. It's hard to catch up.

“We do have great athletes that play hard. That always gives you a chance.”

Currently the team does have several players working hard in the gym and are expected to help guide the team, including junior Nick McKee, who will take over the point for the Lions.

“I told him this is your team,” Bonnaure said. “He is one of the soccer guys and has been very dedicated. They lost in the state tournament on a Tuesday and he was in the gym on Thursday.”

While they face an uphill battle, the Lions have missed the postseason only once since 2000, and Bonnaure isn't looking to have that change.

“We have a sense of pride and tradition,” Bonnaure said. “Playoffs is a realistic goal but we are not afraid to set it higher. We're in a different situation than most seasons and I don't know when we will peak. We didn't peak until playoffs last year.

“That is one reason players come in to the season excited. They know if they work hard they will get recognition in those big games.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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