Back-to-back WPIAL champion Beaver Falls still contending without star player
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Doug Biega laughs a little when folks wonder what's wrong with Beaver Falls' basketball program.
“It's asked as if we're having a bad year,” the coach said.
Despite losing talented senior Elijah Cottrill to injury, Beaver Falls is 16-5 and tied for first in Section 2-AA with Aliquippa. The team's success is more remarkable considering the lineup includes three freshmen.
Winning back-to-back WPIAL championships with a 28-3 record each time can inflate expectations. But by no means has this season been a disappointment.
“People say, ‘What's wrong with the program?' ” Biega said with a laugh.
“We graduated 11 lettermen the past two seasons and then we lost Elijah Cottrill. That's 12 guys. ... We're 16-5, we're playing for the section championship Friday and yet someone's saying, ‘How are you dealing with this being a down year?' Some schools hang (basketballs) in the trophy case for years like this.”
Beaver Falls (16-5, 11-2) is ranked No. 5 in WPIAL Class AA and sixth in the state. The team's two section losses were both to Neshannock, including 58-55 on Tuesday. The three nonsection losses were to New Castle (20-0), Central Valley (17-2) and Blackhawk (10-10).
The Tigers visit Aliquippa on Friday to decide the section. Both Beaver County rivals are 11-2. Beaver Falls won the first matchup 75-54 on Jan. 14.
“We aren't as good as we were with Elijah,” Biega said, “but we're still capable of beating anyone in Class AA.”
Cottrill had knee surgery last fall to repair his meniscus but reinjured it in that first matchup with Aliquippa. The 6-foot-3 guard, named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 10, played a lead role in last season's state title run. He had committed to Akron for football but didn't sign with the Zips. Instead, he'll consider college basketball options, Biega said.
Without Cottrill, Beaver Falls has changed its lineup and its offensive approach. Among the moves, Danny Stratton, a 6-3 senior, made the unusual switch from center to point guard.
“We needed someone who had some experience under their belt,” Biega said of Stratton, who's a two-year starter and a Duquesne football recruit.
“He's really not a point guard, but he's doing whatever the team needs him to do.”
The revamped front court features two 6-foot-5 freshmen forwards, Donovan Jeter and Josh Creach. Jeter is the younger brother of incoming Pitt transfer Sheldon Jeter.
But unlike Sheldon or cousin Lance, who were perimeter players, Donovan works the paint. He has averaged around 20 points since Jan. 1, with a season-high 31 at Riverside.
“Donovan really has become our offense,” Biega said. “We haven't had a back-to-the-basket scorer since Christian Hauser in 2002. Now we do. We dump it in to Donovan, let him create and we feed off his inside presence.”
Junior guard Javon Turner (5-10) and senior guard Branden Thomas (5-11), a newcomer to the district, complete the starting lineup. First off the bench is freshman guard Neshaud Aikens (5-8).
Relying on three freshmen has drawbacks, but also perks.
“We make a lot of mistakes that we haven't made in the last three years,” Biega said, “and that's based on youth. They haven't seen everything yet. ... But when these kids are juniors and seniors, they're not going to be surprised by anything. In 2016 and '17, we're going to be pretty good.”
Not that they aren't already.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Deer Lakes boys basketball coach Parham is eager to get going
- Baldwin boys basketball team to be led by solid senior leadership in 2015-16
- New coach excited to get started with Penn-Trafford boys basketball
- Young Penn-Trafford girls basketball team using summer league to improve
- Quaker Valley boys basketball puts in summer work
- Shady Side Academy’s Groff brothers set for Maccabi Games