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Trailing top-ranked team in state provides motivation for OLSH boys

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By Ed Phillipps
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Midway through the season, the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart boys basketball team is second in its section and looking up at the top team in not only the WPIAL, but the state.

The Chargers are right where they want to be.

On Jan. 14, OLSH separated itself from Western Beaver with a 74-65 victory. On Friday, top-ranked Lincoln Park — led by Pitt recruit Maverick Rowan — helped the Chargers' cause by dealing Western Beaver another loss. That left OLSH firmly in control of second place and its own destiny with an overall record of 10-4, including 4-1 in Section 1-A.

The Chargers pick up section play Friday against Rochester.

“I'd like to think a couple of section wins from here will get us a playoff spot,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said.

Getting to the playoffs is a nice start, but the Chargers have more on their minds.

“Our goal for the season was to win a WPIAL championship and a state championship,” senior Cameron Johnson said. “We talked about it, and the whole team agreed on it.”

Knocking off Lincoln Park, while difficult, is not an impossible task. It was just last season when the Leopards were upset in the both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.

“I believe anyone can be beat,” Rodriguez said.

And he just might have the team to do it.

Johnson is a force and matchup nightmare as a 6-foot-7 guard. He is one of the top scorers in the WPIAL at 28 points per game, and netted a season-high 39 Friday night against Cornell. He also averages eight rebounds and five assists.

“Offensively, he's a very strong basketball player,” Rodriguez said. “His game is still growing, still developing.”

So is Johnson, who was 6-2 a season ago. He said the added height gives him an advantage over most Class A guards.

“It's definitely aided me in a lot of ways, like in scoring and getting my shot off,” Johnson said. “I usually have a smaller guy on me. I do a lot of posting up and pull-up jump shots.”

The Chargers have other scoring options in Kendall Paige (10 per game), Nick Metz (9), Hunter Szilagy (8) and Ian Schrenk (8). Metz is the team's leading rebounder with nine per game.

A well-rounded team is necessary if the Chargers want to finish strong. Section 1 boasts Lincoln Park and Western Beaver, giving it three of the top five teams in Class A. Clashes with Lincoln Park (Jan. 31) and Western Beaver (Feb. 4) loom.

“Our section is pretty tough,” Johnson said. “I'd say it's probably the toughest in single-A. You can't overlook anyone.

“We're going to fight for every win.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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