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With all 5 starters contributing, Mt. Pleasant boys continue to roll

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune-Review
(left) Mt. Pleasant's Ryan Gumbita drives past Southmoreland's Ben Niemiec (right) during a game Jan. 14, 2014, at Southmoreland High School.

Predicting who's going to lead the Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team in scoring on a given night is about as futile a task as predicting winter weather in Western Pennsylvania.

With five seniors in the starting lineup, the Vikings' scoring can come from anywhere, just not usually from a single source.

“I've coached teams where a boy was scoring 40 points a game and everybody else nothing,” Mt. Pleasant coach Tony Splendore said.

“I didn't think it was much fun.”

With Wednesday's last-second victory over Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant (8-5, 5-1) won for the seventh time in its past eight games, relying on five seniors who average around 10 points per game.

“Our team isn't built for someone to score 20 or 30 points a game,” 6-foot-1 forward Luke Liprando said. “For us to win, we have to have everybody in the eight-to-14 range. That's how we're at our best.”

There are benefits, too, said 6-1 guard Mitch Matlas, whose layup as time expired delivered a 42-40 victory for the Vikings on Wednesday night.

“It doesn't put pressure on one or two players because we can all score,” Matlas said. “We don't have to rely on one person to take a big shot.”

Matlas leads the charge at 12.5 points per game. He's followed by Liprando at 11.5 and Ryan Gumbita at 11.0. Marcus Malara contributes 10 a game, Dante Porter eight.

The scoring pretty much eliminates any thoughts opposing coaches might have of running a box-and-one or triangle-and-two.

“With one kid scoring all the points, it makes it easier for your opponent,” Splendore said. “They can devise their defense around one player.”

Now Mt. Pleasant has to figure out how to have that happen all the time.

If there's one thing Splendore wants to fix, it's playing consistently for four quarters.

Splendore pointed to a 76-58 home loss to Section 3-AAA leader Uniontown (12-1, 6-0) on Jan. 10.

After Mt. Pleasant took an 18-9 lead, Uniontown scored 29 points in the second quarter and 22 more in the third to flip a nine-point deficit into a 20-point advantage.

“We need to play four strong quarters and not three or sometimes two,” said Matlas, whose team plays at Uniontown on Feb. 4.

Mt. Pleasant started the season wanting to push the pace, but a lack of depth squashed that plan.

Following a season-opening 75-52 loss to Norwin, the Vikings started utilizing more half-court sets — and beat Penn-Trafford, 37-36.

What Mt. Pleasant took for granted was its depth off the bench. Sure, the Vikings had five senior starters, but Cody Monroe graduated and Tyler Mellors decided not to play.

Guards Luke Leuckert and Zack Damico and 6-foot-4 forward Matt Johnson have improved, though production from reserves remains one of Splendore's chief concerns.

“We know it's a long season,” Splendore said. “We need to develop that sixth, seventh and eighth man.”

At least Mt. Pleasant doesn't have to worry much about the first five.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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