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Penn-Trafford boys learn from opening losses

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford junior Gregor Dudiak handles the ball during a game against Mt. Pleasant at the Penn-Trafford Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, at Penn-Trafford High School.

Penn-Trafford entered this season young and inexperienced, knowing every game would be pivotal to cohesion, and ultimately, success.

As host of an opening weekend tipoff tournament, the Warriors faced different challenges over the first two nights, finishing the weekend with a tough one-point loss to Mt. Pleasant after falling to Hampton, 74-53, in their opener.

“I thought we had a very good weekend aside from one quarter of basketball,” coach Ryan Yarosik said. “That quarter cost us (against Mt. Pleasant).”

Against Hampton, Penn-Trafford (0-2) hung tough early before falling into foul trouble in the second half. Opening with the top-ranked team in Class AAAA, according to the Tribune-Review, would be a challenge for any team, and Yarosik felt the game was closer than the final score indicated.

“We had them on the ropes there for a while and we got in to some foul trouble, which put them on the line and stretched out the lead a little bit,” Yarosik said. “I was completely pleased with our team's effort against Hampton.”

The play of 6-foot-7 senior center Sam Kavel pleased Yarosik the most against Hampton. Kavel recorded a double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds playing against fellow big man Ryan Luther, a 6-foot-8 Pitt commit.

“(Kavel) was the best big man on the floor against Hampton, no question,” Yarosik said. “He was a breath of fresh air for us.”

Saturday night against Mt. Pleasant, Penn-Trafford looked to be on its way to its first win of the season, as the Warriors led by 13 points at halftime. But a shaky second half cost the Warriors the game.

“In the second half, Mt. Pleasant went to a little bit of a zone defense, and we weren't able to knock down some shots,” Yarosik said. “I think we showed a little bit of our youth in the fourth quarter there. Ultimately, you lose on a shot at the buzzer that's 7 feet behind the 3-point line and it banks in at the buzzer.”

Kavel added another 16-point performance, while Timmy Vecchio and Dom Conconcelli had strong outings.

“Timmy's like our Energizer bunny out there,” Yarosik said. “The kid makes plays out there for us. We go as Timmy goes.”

Yarosik added: “Dom Conconcelli really had a great weekend defending the ball. He's our lockdown defensive guy.”

While teams want to win every game, Yarosik said dropping the first two non-conference matches provided his youthful squad a learning experience before opening section play with a home game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Albert Gallatin.

“It's important for our team to realize right now that this season is a marathon, not a sprint,” Yarosik said. “We constantly tell our kids that the section games are what matters most.”

Drawing from last year when Penn-Trafford finished with a losing section record and missed out on the WPIAL playoffs after finishing fifth, Yarosik is hoping to avoid a repeat.

“We won a lot of non-section games and struggled within our section, and we ultimately missed the playoffs last year,” Yarosik recalled. “You have to learn from your mistakes that you make in these games so in section games you are prepared.”

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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