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Winners of 4 straight, Frazier has matched wins total from last season

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 10:45 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Frazier's Charles Manack (30) shoots a layup against Jefferson-Morgan's Christian Randolph (33) on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at Frazier High School in Perryopolis. Frazier won 67-63.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Revie
Frazier's Caleb Cox (left) steals a pass from Jefferson-Morgan's Rece Henneman after both dove for a ball on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, at Frazier High School in Perryopolis. Frazier won 67-63.

For the second straight season, Frazier welcomed the new year with a streak.

But these past four wins feel much better than last season's nine consecutive losses.

This winter, there's reason for excitement.

“At this point last year, we were frustrated with ourselves and with each other,” said senior Charlie Manack, a three-year starter at forward. “Now, we're more upbeat and we're excited.”

The Commodores (6-4, 3-1) already have matched their wins total from last season when they had just six. That included only four in Section 5-AA.

Maturity has fueled the turnaround, coach Ed Keebler said. But the team also added some young talent to the lineup.

“We're definitely excited,” said Keebler, a sixth-year coach. “The kids know what they can do. We just can't let up.”

Brownsville (4-0) leads the section, with Frazier and Charleroi (3-1) one game back. California (2-2) and Beth-Center (2-2) are tied for fourth.

“Charleroi and Brownsville (entered the season) as the two top teams,” Keebler said, “but there's just nobody who's going to blow anybody out, I don't think. The top five teams are closer than normal.”

Frazier should surpass last season's accomplishments, but Manack would rather better his sophomore year. The Commodores were 15-8 in 2011-12 and made the WPIAL playoffs.

“Every time basketball season comes around, I think about what a thrill it was to play in the playoffs,” he said. “There's nothing like it.”

If Frazier returns to the playoffs, he'll have played a key role. Manack led all scorers with 21 points in Wednesday's 67-52 win over previously unbeaten Carmichaels (9-1), ranked No. 3 in Class A.

“He's definitely the leader of the team,” Keebler said. “He's got a good head on his shoulders and leads by example.”

Manack, who moves between power forward and small forward, was the football team's quarterback last fall.

“He's just smart,” Keebler said. “When we run plays, he knows where all five players are supposed to play. He just totally knows the game. He looks like an offensive lineman, but he just outsmarts everybody.”

Along with Manack (6-foot-1), guard Roger Cline (5-10) and forward Zack Poling (6-3) were starters last season. All three are seniors.

Added to the lineup has been sophomore guard Caleb Cox (5-10), freshman guard Alvin Ross (5-10) and sophomore center Mark Dillon (6-4).

The bench features senior Tyler Kennedy (6-0), freshman Josh Cox (5-11) and junior Kody Riley (5-10).

The Cox brothers, who are new to the district, have been solid additions.

“We are getting better every day,” Keebler said. “We're still making mistakes, but we've been able to pull out victories.”

That includes a 53-43 win over California on Dec. 17, which Keebler called Frazier's best defensive effort.

The team rebounded well, didn't foul and its man-to-man defense played solid.

“If I could clone that game 21 more times this season I would,” Keebler said.

Frazier, which has averaged 56.8 points, once scored 68 and twice reached 67. But it has allowed 56.1.

Lowering that number is Frazier's focus.

“We have to keep people in the low 50s,” Keebler said. “Otherwise, it puts a lot of pressure on us to score. We've got to tighten it down on defense.”

Note: Frazier will honor its 1969 WPIAL championship team with a ceremony Jan. 17, when it hosts Beth-Center. The school will hang a new banner to commemorate that title.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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