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Penn-Trafford boys basketball team putting stock in its defense

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford guard Sean Stinelli (left) defends during a game against Bethel Park on Dec. 26, 2013, at Shady Side Academy.

Because of its young roster, points are sometimes at a premium for the Penn-Trafford boys basketball team.

However, the Warriors are keeping points at a premium for their opponents as well.

Through nine games, Penn-Trafford (4-5, 1-1 Section 1-AAAA) is allowing 50.1 points per contest, second-best in Section 1-AAAA and tied for seventh among the 31 teams in Class AAAA.

“We knew defense was going to have to be our bread and butter this year because we're not so much of a scoring team,” sophomore Dom Coconcelli said. “We're out there, and we're going to play tough, hard-nosed defense and get it done on the other end of the floor, as well.”

The Warriors showed their defensive prowess in a 41-36 victory over Bethel Park last week in the Shady Side Academy Tournament. After allowing 24 points in the first half, Penn-Trafford switched to a box-and-one defense in the second half and limited the Black Hawks to 12 points.

Coconcelli guarded Bethel Park's Joe Mascaro in the second half, shutting him out after Mascaro scored 12 points in the first half.

“I just tried to stick with him the best I could,” Coconcelli said. “I stuck with him. It wasn't all me. The box helped me out. If (my teammates) aren't moving, then the whole thing doesn't work. It's not just one man.”

“When the ball doesn't go in the hoop (for you), you've got to stop the other team from doing that,” Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said. “We struggled for a little bit there in the first half, but our defense kept it within reason and gave us a chance. And eventually, the ball's going to go down.”

Sean Stinelli's 3-pointer with 25 seconds left gave Penn-Trafford the lead for good against Bethel Park. The Warriors trailed by 11 at halftime.

The second-half comeback was the Warriors' second in as many games. They also mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Laurel Highlands in a nonsection game last month.

“It just shows how resilient we really are,” Coconcelli said. “We're always going to work back, and we're going to tough it out. We're never going to quit.”

“We've got to work on how we start games, but I always tell them, ‘It's not how you start, it's how you finish,' ” Yarosik said. “(Just as) you want to be playing your best ball when it matters most at the end of the year, the same could be said during a game. Down the stretch, you want to be playing your best ball. The kids executed our offense and played with a lot of heart and guts on defense.”

Penn-Trafford finished the Shady Side Academy Tournament by losing back-to-back games against Obama Academy on Friday and Highlands on Saturday. The Warriors will resume section play with a game against Hempfield at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“I like coming here,” Yarosik said of the Shady Side tournament. “You get three days here. My (junior varsity players) get three games in (instead of) sitting around over Christmas, and we play different teams. For us, it's going to be important to come down here and continue to grow and worry about the daily process. I say you want to be playing your best ball when it matters most, but you get there through these moments.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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