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Seneca Valley turns to up-tempo offense after losing trio of big men

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's T.J. Holl drives to the basket against Penn Hills on Dec. 6, 2013 during a game at Mars.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Zach Snyder drives to the basket against Penn Hills on Dec. 6, 2013, during a game at Mars High School.

T.J. Holl loves it.

Victor Giannotta can't stand it.

Regardless, it's tough to argue with the results the Seneca Valley boys basketball team has achieved with its new, fast-paced offense.

After graduating Alex Snyder, Easton Bazzoli and R.J. McCauley, starters who were 6-foot-7, 6-5 and 6-3, the Raiders are relying on a run-and-gun approach that's producing 18.3 more points per game than last season.

“I like running the floor, making plays on the run,” said Holl, who's averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. “It's fun, and it's hard for defenses to cover.”

It's even more difficult for Giannotta, in his 22nd year as a high school coach, to wrap his head around.

“I hate it,” he said. “But the kids like it. I guess I'm getting soft. We do whatever the kids want.”

Why does he hate it so much?

“I'd rather play inside out than outside in,” Giannotta added. “But that's just the way it goes.”

Seneca Valley (5-1, 2-0 Section 3-AAAA) owns wins over Penn Hills, Brashear, Shaler, Perry and North Hills, with its only loss coming to Mars on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Holl said the transition has been anything but easy and chalked up the Mars loss to exactly that.

“We struggled filling spots and pushing it up the floor,” Holl said. “We've done a decent job of running the floor, but we have to put it all together.”

Seneca Valley went to the new offense because only Holl, a 6-2 guard, and 5-11 guard Matt Darby returned as starters.

Zach Snyder, a 6-6 forward, has emerged as a capable scorer, to lead the team at 21.0 points, along with 6.2 rebounds, per game.

But aside from reserve forward Josh Bauers, who's 6-5, nobody has to duck going through doorways.

“We don't like to slow it up,” Snyder said. “We're too small for that.”

Holl said one of the hardest concepts to grasp was filling the correct lanes while making the transition from defense to offense, almost how a hockey team's forwards enter the offensive zone.

Giannotta also would like to see the Raiders pay more attention to defense and cut down on the 55.2 points allowed per game.

“We're playing faster on offense, which is more conducive to us as basketball players,” said Giannotta, who won his 300th game Dec. 13. “We still have to buy into playing some defense.”

Senior forward Mike Smith is averaging 10.0 points and leads the team at 7.1 rebounds.

Junior swingman Dakota Topf is putting up 10.4 points per game and shooting a team-best 76.4 percent from the free-throw line. Darby leads with 7.0 assists per game.

With a section that includes No. 1 Hampton, No. 2 New Castle and North Allegheny, Seneca Valley is hoping it can use the offense to improve upon last year's appearance in the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA playoffs.

“Last year, we could slow it down and get it into the paint,” Holl said. “Now we want to push it up the floor because we don't have the size we had last year. We had to play to our strengths.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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