South Allegheny boys continue climbing Section 4 ladder
South Allegheny basketball coach Tony DiCenzo wasn't particularly thrilled that his team let Riverview cut a 14-point first-half lead in half near the end of the third quarter.
“We have to do a better job of finishing off teams when we have them down by double figures,” DiCenzo said.
Yes, we're talking about South Allegheny.
A second-year coach of a downtrodden program that has more winless seasons than winning ones over the past decade is concerned about doing a better job of putting teams away after a 58-46 win that elevated the Gladiators (8-4, 3-1) into second place in Section 4-AA.
Things sure have changed quickly for a team that went 0-21 two years ago and hasn't made the playoffs since 2003.
“Anytime you get a win, it is a good thing for us,” DiCenzo said. “Going down the road, I think we have an opportunity to be a pretty good team and get into the playoffs, but we have to work on closing out games.”
South Allegheny let Riverview hang around before winning its fifth game by double figures.
“We want to play our best, and everybody wants to win by 20 or 30 points,” DiCenzo said. “But we still need to learn how to win. They don't have much of a winning tradition here. The kids still aren't there yet in that aspect. We need to keep stacking these wins so they can keep gaining confidence.”
South Allegheny got 20 points from Jieron Lewis, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, to go along with 16 points from Derek Vargo and 13 points and 10 rebounds from Ty Cook as the Gladiators won their third straight game.
Riverview (2-9, 0-5) got 19 points from Zach Lesnick.
“Last year, these were types of games we would lose, and now we are winning them,” DiCenzo said. “We are definitely taking steps in the right direction. By all means, we just want to win the game.”
South Allegheny used a red-hot shooting first quarter to open up a substantial lead. SA hit its first five shots, including a trio of 3-pointers by Lewis, in the first 2:40 of the game.
SA didn't miss a shot until 3:41 left in the quarter and ripped off a late 10-0 run to go ahead by 15 after eight minutes.
“That's pretty atypical for us, but we have some streaky shooters,” DiCenzo said. “That was, by far, our best shooting quarter of the year.”
South Allegheny hit 7 of 17 from 3-point range, including its first four and five of its first six.
“If they are going to get open shots, I tell them if they are stepping into open shots they need to shoot with confidence,” DiCenzo said. “We were able to knock them down.”
But it didn't last.
South Allegheny followed a great shooting quarter with one of its worst. The Gladiators missed all six 3-pointers in the second quarter to allow Riverview to get within 30-20 at halftime. A poorly played third quarter in which SA turned the ball over six times allowed the Raiders to claw within 38-30 with 2:40 left.
However, a 14-2 SA run that spanned the end of the third and into the fourth finally put the Raiders away.
“We need to work on that moving down the line against better teams, especially if we are fortunate to get into the playoffs,” DiCenzo said. “We built that foundation last year. We went from no wins up to eight last year, and we could've won a handful more. Our experience last year is translating into wins this year.”