Kiski Area seniors hope to end regular season by clinching Section 1 title
Kiski Area senior guard Joe Brungo seems to be in the know.
He might have been the first person to know the Cavaliers (13-4, 9-1) would be getting an unexpected roster boost this year from seniors Bill Johnson and Ryan Sciullo, who previously had stepped away from basketball to focus on other sports.
He also knows his team's rematch with Section 1-AAAA leader Hempfield (15-2, 9-0) Tuesday is what ultimately stands between the Cavaliers and winning back-to-back section titles.
But, perhaps most importantly, he recognizes that Friday's matchup with Penn-Trafford (5-13, 2-7) cannot be overlooked.
“We're taking it a game at a time,” Brungo said. “If we don't win Friday then Tuesday doesn't mean anything.”
But the players aren't pretending to not think about the matchup with Hempfield.
In fact, they have been for months.
“Before the season starts you kind of look at the schedule and they're all big games,” junior guard Michael Simmons said, “but you look at the last section game of the year against Hempfield, and you have to kind of think that's going to count for something.”
Hempfield won the first matchup 45-40, but Brungo's squad has the luxury of hosting the rematch.
“Just being at the home court will definitely get us ready to play,” he said.
“Especially playing Hempfield, I think they had definite home-field advantage there the first game.”
As the last home game of the year, Kiski Area also will be celebrating senior night, and Simmons wants to send his teammates out as winners.
“One thing this school hasn't had a lot of is section titles. We want another one,” said Simmons, who's leading the Cavaliers in scoring at 21.1 points per game.
“Especially for (Brungo's) senior year. We're good friends. I want him to have something to remember.”
Whether they win the section, the Cavaliers will be heading to the WPIAL playoffs, where they hope to move past the first round for the first time in years.
For that to happen, they'll have to find a killer instinct that has been lacking at times.
Although Kiski Area sports one of the top records in Class AAAA, some of its games with losing teams were a little too close for comfort at the final buzzer, including a 30-29 win over Penn-Trafford and a 55-54 win over Section 2 opponent Penn Hills (4-13, 1-10).
But the team recognizes its shortcomings and has been putting in the extra effort to fix its bad habits.
“In most of those games, we'll get out to a big lead, and we just can't finish off a game very strong,” said Brungo, who's second behind Simmons with 16.2 points per game. “We've been working hard on doing that. I think it says more about the team we have, but we still have a lot to prove.”
Kiski Area couldn't have asked for a better test to prove they have what it takes to make a postseason run — that being a more focused, mistake-free brand of basketball.
“There's a little more emphasis on taking care of the ball and cherishing every possession because we know how much each one counts,” Simmons said.
“Hempfield is one of the best teams in the WPIAL, and they don't make a lot of mistakes.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.