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Avonworth boys looking for consistency during unbeaten start

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By Kevin Ritchart
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Dan Bradley has a clear understanding of the values he's trying to instill in his players, no matter the sport.

“We teach organization, discipline, fundamentals and commitment,” Bradley said. “We're teaching the values of life, and the kids are starting to grasp that.”

In the fall, Bradley imparts these values to the players on the Sto-Rox football team. In the winter, the Avonworth boys basketball team is the beneficiary of his coaching philosophy.

The Antelopes entered play this week with a 9-3 overall record and sat atop the Section 6-AA standings with a perfect 5-0 mark.

“We've gotten off to a great start,” Bradley said. “I'm still looking for some consistency. We need to stay positive and stay focused for four quarters.”

Among their section wins were triumphs over postseason hopefuls Sto-Rox and Quaker Valley. The Quakers were just a game back of Avonworth in the section standings at the start of the week.

“Those are quality wins for us,” Bradley said.

Despite the team's many successes thus far, it may have been a loss right after Christmas at the Bishop Canevin Holiday Tournament that spurred the Antelopes to play a better brand of basketball in recent weeks.

After leading by as many as 20 points against Eden Christian on Dec. 28, Avonworth faltered in the second half and lost the game, 72-64.

“We didn't handle the ball well, didn't make our foul shots, didn't get back on defense,” Bradley said. “It was just a bad half of basketball.”

Since that eight-point loss, Avonworth has played much better in all facets of the game and has won three straight. The Antelopes took control of Section 6-AA with a hard-fought, 56-54 road victory over Quaker Valley on Jan. 3.

“It was a great team effort and a great game to be a part of,” Bradley said. “They like to get quick baskets, but we didn't let them.

“We executed our half-court sets and rebounded well to limit their second-chance opportunities.”

Bradley was proud of the way his team performed in what he called “a playoff-type atmosphere” at Quaker Valley.

Four Antelopes — senior Eric Gallupe (13), sophomore Jamal Hughley (11) and juniors Josh Drwal (11) and Adam Joyce (10) — reached double figures in scoring against the Quakers.

The balance on the score sheet night-in and night-out has a great deal to do with the year-round effort being put forth by the Avonworth players.

“Whether it's summer leagues, fall leagues or AAU ball, these kids are putting the time in,” Bradley said. “Now they're starting to see the benefits of it.”

After a nonsection victory on Jan. 8 over Quigley Catholic, Avonworth returned to Section 6-AA action on Jan. 10 and posted a convincing home win over South Side Beaver, 84-55.

“They're an athletic team that likes to get up and down the floor,” Bradley said of South Side Beaver. “They're competitive and physical, and they've been scoring a bunch of points.”

Joyce was the leading point-getter for the Antelopes against South Side Beaver with 16.

Avonworth begins the second half of its section schedule on Friday, at Freedom.

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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