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Free-throw disparity spells trouble for Clairton boys basketball team

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

The Clairton boys basketball team's matchup against Shaler on Friday afternoon at Gateway was decided at the free-throw line.

The Titans made 24 foul shots, while the Bears attempted only seven.

That disparity — Shaler went 24 for 36, and Clairton was just 2 for 7 — was the driving force behind the Titans' 57-37 win on Day 2 of the Gateway Hoops Classic.

“We work on it,” Shaler coach Brian Bibek said. “So I expect guys to be able to step to the line and make foul shots at the end of the game.

“It's something that's been emphasized, so it's good to see that it's carried over from practice to the game.”

Trailing the entire second half and by 10 entering the fourth quarter, Clairton was forced to put more pressure on the ball defensively and send Shaler (2-7) to the line in an attempt to extend the game.

“We were kind of forced into taking some risks,” Clairton coach Matt Geletko said. “Then once the lead got extended a little bit, we had to take even more risks and foul and put them on the line.”

Coming off a 54-31 loss to Gateway on the opening day of the tournament Thursday, the Titans got 20 points from senior guard Zach Weaver. Senior Kevin Mincher added 16.

“They're seniors,” Bibek said. “They did what I asked them to do. They were both good.”

Geletko was encouraged by his team's defensive performance, but Clairton could not match Shaler's scoring.

“That's been the story all year: We haven't executed offensively as well as we should be,” he said.

“That's going to get us in trouble.”

In just their third game of the season, the Bears were paced by senior Isaiah Hollis' 10 points. Junior guard Ryan Williams added eight.

Some of Clairton's struggles offensively can be attributed to its late start to the season as virtually all of its opponents have several games in hand.

But Geletko said that while games in December are nice to win, he's most concerned with getting his team prepared for when it begins Section 3-A play starting Jan. 3 against Mapletown.

“At this point, most teams have played seven, eight games plus two scrimmages,” he said. “So you use those scrimmages to work through stuff like that, and even these early season games, you're still working through stuff to make sure you're ready for section play. That's the ultimate goal here when section play starts next week. That's what we want to be ready for.”

After losing its first two games at the Gateway Hoops Classic, Clairton (1-2) will look to win its tournament finale Saturday when it takes on Woodland Hills (0-8) at 2 p.m. in the seventh-place game.

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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