Keystone Oaks sports soared to new heights in 2012

Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

The Keystone Oaks Golden Eagles had several special moments during the 2012 season.

A handful of athletes made it to PIAA tournaments, a team claimed a section title and a veteran coach stepped away from his position.

The following are the top stories coming out of Keystone Oaks athletics this past year.

A new era begins

In a move that caught many off guard, Nick Kamberis – who coached the Golden Eagles for 13 seasons and recorded a 65-65 mark – resigned as head coach of the football team, citing personal reasons.

“He has been a true leader at the school,” athletic director Ken Hustava said at the time. “He goes above and beyond, just not for athletes, but all the students.”

The coaching search led Keystone Oaks to hire former Burgettstown coach Matt Taylor. His first season with the team turned out to be a trying year as Keystone Oaks lost its first seven games.

The Golden Eagles were able to turn it around in the final two games, picking up a 28-21 victory over McGuffey and a 40-7 blowout over Burgettstown.

While the 2-7 record was disappointing, the Golden Eagles had several positives come out of the season. Sophomore Kobi Phillipi – who threw for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns – showed progress in his first year as a starter and sophmore running back Jimmy Canello and junior receiver Braydon Griffiths both gained a wealth of experience for 2013.

Hardwood glory

The Keystone Oaks boys basketball team had a banner year in 2011-12 as it won the Section 4-AAA title, the first Golden Eagles section title since 2003.

First-year coach Gene Mercuri installed his uptempo style and Keystone Oaks used it to finish with a 20-3 mark – including 12-0 in section action. The Golden Eagles were upset by Trinity, 72-62, in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

Rocco Constristano finished his career at Keystone Oaks with more than 1,000 points.

The girls squad, meanwhile, made its deepest playoff run in history.

First-year coach Nikki Presto – who was Mercuri's replacement after he resigned from the position – guided the Golden Eagles to a 7-5 mark in a tough Section 5-AA.

The Golden Eagles defeated Shady Side Academy, Deer Lakes and Greensburg Central Catholic during their run through the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Keystone Oaks made it to the WPIAL semifinals before falling to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Seton-La Salle, 78-38. The Golden Eagles moved onto the PIAA Class AA tournament, defeating Moniteau 44-43 in the opening round.

The squad fell to Forest Hills, 68-57, in the second round.

Guard Alexa Xenakis finished her career with more than 1,000 points – a feat accomplished by only one other athlete in Keystone Oaks history.

Silver medal

Nick Zanetta had a strong junior campaign, going 41-4 and ending up as the runner -up of the PIAA Class AA tournament at 126 pounds.

Zanetta committed to Pitt this past summer to continue his wrestling career after his senior season.

Postseason run

The duo of senior Emily Valley and sophomore Maura Gray made a strong drive through the WPIAL Class AA doubles tennis tournament and ended up in the state tournament.

After tearing through the first two rounds, the pair fell to Chelsea Carter and Sara Kaminsky of South Park, 6-1, 6-2. Gray and Valley would drop to the consolation match where they defeated Juliana Lapek and Analise Zapadka in three sets – 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 – to qualify for the PIAA tournament,

The duo fell to Mercyhurst Prep's Katie Elia and Brittany McBridge, 6-2 , 6-0, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA tournament.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-583-6847 or at

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