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Appendectomy not slowing down McConnell

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 12:36 p.m.
File photo
Matty McConnell is averaging 21.1 points per game as a junior.

Matty McConnell just didn't feel right.

The Colts had just defeated Waynesburg, 86-27, on Dec. 17 and the junior guard said he started to feel sick. A few days later, he was in the hospital and doctors were planning surgery.

McConnell was diagnosed with a lacerated appendix and the junior guard was sidelined for weeks.

“It hurt so bad,” McConnell said. “I couldn't even lay on my side. I went to the hospital and they said I had to have surgery.”

He would miss three games while he recovered, including Chartiers Valley's lone loss this season – 57-56 to Ambridge on Dec. 28. While he knew he couldn't play, Matty McConnell did what he could to help the team.

“I told my dad I wanted to help the team anyway I could from the bench,” Matty McConnell said. “I wanted to be like another player or coach on the bench.”

But as sudden as he was sidelined, McConnell returned for maybe the most important game of the season.

After visiting the doctor on Jan. 3 and being cleared, he suited up for a Section 5-AAA showdown with rival Montour – the team that defeated Chartiers Valley for the WPIAL Class AAA title last season.

“Being my son, I knew he was chomping at the bit to get out there,” Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell said. “When the doctor gave him the OK, we were excited to have him back.”

Not only did the younger McConnell return but he had his best game of the season – he recorded 32 points with five rebounds and steals – as the Colts defeated the Spartans, 74-59.

“I thought I would be a little rusty,” Matty McConnell said. “But I kept hitting shots and my teammates kept getting me the ball.”

Last week in an 86-33 win over South Park, Matty McConnell scored 10 points with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. The next day, he helped the Colts defeat Mt. Lebanon, 55-47, as he scored 24 points, with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.

The performance against Montour was the highlight of what has been a strong season for the junior. He is leading the team with 21.1 points, 5.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. He is second on the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game.

While he still has a lethal 3-point shoot – he has made 146 3-pointers at the varsity level – Matty McConnell has tried to focus on driving to the hoop more this season.

“I know I did most of my scoring from the perimeter last season,” he said. “But in the summer, I started driving to the hoop more. It gets my teammates open and helps our scoring.”

It is the selflessness that is leading to the Colts success this year. The Colts lost last year's starting center Spencer Casson to graduation. Without a natural shot blocker to rely on, the coaching staff upped the tempo with the team due to the smaller size of the players on the roster.

“We are playing much faster this year,” Tim McConnell said. “We knew we couldn't allow teams to throw the ball inside and get easy baskets or get us in foul trouble. Having the guards we do made us quicker.”

The change worked as the Colts are third in Class AAA in scoring – their 69.8 per game average is behind only Uniontown's 74.5 and Thomas Jefferson's 70.5 –with at least seven players scoring at least five points per game. The team is also third in defense allowing just 44.4 points per game, trailing only Knoch's 39 and South Fayette's 44.4.

If Chartiers Valley can keep playing the way they have to reach 10-1, the team could be in line for some big things this season.

“If we keep playing like this, I think we can make it far,” Matty McConnell said. “We're unselfish. We are hitting shots. We're running the floor. If we can do this night in and night out, we'll be pretty good.”

Chartiers Valley returns to the court tomorrow, Friday, when it travels to Keystone Oaks for a 7:30 p.m. start.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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