ShareThis Page

Scrimmages play key role in basketball playoff prep

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:11 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell head coach Meghan Ziemianski checks on players during basketball practice at Burrell High School on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's Mike Simmons drives past Hempfield's Mike Nauman during a game Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at Kiski Area.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's Billy Johnson attempts a lay-up past Hempfield's Logan Swan during their game Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at Kiski Area.
Nikki Mielecki, St. Joseph

Call them the games within the games. The games nobody sees, even though they happen during WPIAL playoff time.

They are the pick-up scrimmages that happen between playoff teams from different classifications, some before the playoffs begin, others in between rounds.

They are postseason rehearsals and teams treat them like the real thing.

“They can get pretty intense; just like the games,” Plum boys coach Ron Richards said. “There's only so much you can do in practices. It gets monotonous real fast. You want to play and stay sharp.”

Plum had to sit for 10 days before opening the Class AAAA playoffs against Kiski Area, which sat idle for eight days. The Burrell girls had a nine-day layoff before taking on Shenango in the Class AA first round.

Practices at this time of year, some coaches say, have the same appeal as biting into a piece of plastic fruit.

“You can get really bored with practice,” Burrell coach Meghan Ziemianski said. “And you end up getting very little out of it.”

Teams are permitted to scrimmage opponents that aren't in their bracket and can play mock games as many times as they'd like.

“I wish we could scrimmage every day,” Burrell girls assistant coach Mark Ziemianski said. “The girls play hard; we have girls like Syd (Bordonaro) and Natalie (Myers) and they always go full-speed no matter what we're doing.”

While most see scrimmages as jazzed-up practices, teams see them as additional real-game action. Referees even work them, and some teams use scoreboards.

“You want to know who wins, right?” Meghan Ziemianski said.

There are no foot-thumping student sections or cheerleaders, but the games are played until somebody wins.

Burrell didn't use a scoreboard in a recent tri-scrimmage with Indiana and Mars, but it played as if it was the semifinals with a trip to the Palumbo Center on the line.

“Syd comes over to me and says, ‘We're down one,' ” Meghan Ziemianski said. “They know. They always know the score. You know our girls, they're gym rats. They'll play anybody.”

Plum and Knoch canceled a nonsection game set for the final Saturday of the regular season, but instead scrimmaged each other before their respective playoff openers.

“It was a nice scrimmage; the teams were much sharper than they would have been before,” Richards said. “It was full-out hustle by both sides.”

Kiski Area, which beat Plum, 50-40, to advance to the Class AAAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2010, had a pair of scrimmages set up, but they were canceled because of weather. That meant amped-up practices. Nothing boring about it.

“We had to turn practice up a notch,” junior guard Mike Simmons said. “It got a lot more competitive. The second team got after it more on defense and made it harder for us on offense. They were told to foul and hold and just make it harder for us to do our job.”

Kiski Area first-year coach Joey Tutchstone said his predecessor, Harry Rideout, was not a fan of in-playoff scrimmages.

“It just wasn't his thing,” Tutchstone said. “And if you think about it, if you're not scrimmaging, that's more time to focus on the team you're getting ready to play.”

Scrimmages aren't for everyone. And speaking of rules, there are none that say you must scrimmage during playoff time.

St. Joseph's girls are in the quarterfinals for the fourth straight time but this year's group prefers practice over scrimmages.

They have not scrimmaged at all since the regular season ended. And they'll have had a full week in between games when they take the court on Saturday.

“We don't have enough bodies to risk injuries in scrimmages between playoff games,” senior forward Nikki Mielecki said. “Instead, we have practices with intense conditioning and skill work. We have had too many injuries already so our bench is down.”

Mielecki said practices have not become ho-hum.

“Our team gets along very well so we enjoy spending time together, even if its just practice,” she said. “Everyone on the team has been bringing a lot of enthusiasm and energy to these last few practices before the big game. This is very important for being able to make some further improvements on our game and finish preparing for what's ahead.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.