Trib Cup: Central Valley boys gain momentum heading into playoffs
There's always a moment in a season when a coach can look at his team and emphatically say this is when the season turned around.
For Central Valley boys basketball coach Brandon Ambrose, that moment came after a pair of losses.
“After losing to Ambridge and Beaver Falls, I was very impressed with how they approached the game after them, and I can say that turned the season around and showed them we can compete and play every night,” Ambrose said. “We responded with adversity when we could have laid down, but we didn't do that. … I think our confidence grew out of that loss.”
With their impressive win total this season, the Central Valley boys basketball team is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The Warriors are a major reason why Central Valley High School is in third place in the Class AAA standings.
Since the pair of losses, the Warriors have won three consecutive games, moving to 15-6 overall and 9-2 in Section 2-AAA heading into Friday night's section finale against Hopewell (3-17, 2-9). Central Valley enters the game tied for first with Beaver (16-3, 9-2), which dealt the Warriors their other section loss this season Jan. 4.
During the three-game winning streak, the Warriors avenged the loss to Beaver, 74-53, and beat third-place Blackhawk, 66-56, on Tuesday.
“Blackhawk is a good team and with a good tradition and they're always ready to play,” Ambrose said. “One thing I can say is we don't always play perfect, but we compete, and (Tuesday) night was no different.”
Central Valley's switch to an up-tempo offense has keyed the team's run to a WPIAL playoff berth. The Warriors' offense differs from the “grind-it-out” system Ambrose implemented in years past. Ambrose made the adjustment to fit his personnel, noticing the players' styles have changed.
“These guys want to get up and down and run and pressure and create turnovers,” Ambrose said. “They have good instincts in understanding rotations and where players are going to throw the ball.
“I think a big reason why is because we are a lot deeper. Instead of playing six or seven guys, we're playing nine or 10, and there's no drop off.”
Ambrose's starting five includes juniors Brian Kolich (13 ppg), Michael Sims (10 ppg), Jake St. George (100 steals) and Matt Kline, as well as sophomore Chris Anastas. The deep bench includes senior Ryan Michaels, junior Tony Gates and sophomores John George and B.J. Powell. Ambrose said having capable players coming off the bench has been an advantage and has allowed the team to play aggressive defense without worrying about foul trouble.
“They all play good defense by getting down and guarding, creating turnovers, and we can trap,” Ambrose said. “On the offensive side, we've been able to execute well in a motion offense. And the thing is, it's a different guy every night. … Everyone has contributed at some point each game.”
Ambrose said he is certain his team's mentality will not change heading into the postseason, and the principles he's taught them all year will be vital.
“Keep guarding people and executing on offense,” Ambrose said. “A lot of it is a match up thing. … It's a matter, in my opinion, of keep practicing hard and do the things that got you in the playoffs, and hopefully you play and shoot well when you're there.”
The Warriors will find out their seed and opponent for the Class AAA playoffs after the pairings meeting Tuesday night.
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.
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.