South Allegheny boys basketball begins climb to respectability
TribLIVE Sports Videos
For the South Allegheny High School boys basketball program, the only way to go is up.
After last season's 0-21 record — 0-12 in section play — first-year coach Tony DiCenzo is reconstructing the program from the bottom up.
“We know what we walked into and we're going to start building it back, starting from the foundation,” DiCenzo said.
DiCenzo was coach at Community College of Allegheny County-South before that program was discontinued. He also had assistant coaching stints at Elizabeth Forward and at his native West Mifflin.
DiCenzo is hoping that winning and a sense of accomplishment can come from the school's football team, which recently qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1986 under coach Pat Monroe.
“We have a handful of kids from the football team coming over to the basketball program,” DiCenzo said. “Coach Monroe has changed the work ethic, and the kids believe in what we're saying — that we want to put them in a position to succeed.”
South Allegheny hasn't made the WPIAL playoffs since 2003, losing a first-round Class AAA game to Hampton. The last Gladiators playoff victory was Feb. 17, 2001, vs. Center.
One player DiCenzo is looking to build around is junior Kordell Thompson, last year's leading scorer. Thompson is listed as a small forward but is versatile enough to play any position.
DiCenzo will be assisted by former Gladiators standout Nate Wojciekowski and by Shaun Johnston.
The Gladiators have been realigned to Section 3-AA and will face perennial playoff contenders Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette and Shady Side Academy.
“We want to play the best teams,” DiCenzo said. “I think it will be good for the kids.”
The Gladiators begin the season Friday at the Brownsville Tip-off Tournament against the host Falcons. South Allegheny will be thrown into the fire immediately in section play, opening at home against Jeannette on Dec. 14.
Girls look to improve
The South Allegheny girls team has also moved into a new section.
Instead of playing teams such as defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Seton-La Salle, the Gladiators have been moved to Section 3-AA and powerhouses like Greensburg Central Catholic, a school that has made the WPIAL playoffs 29 of the past 30 seasons.
Jeannette and Riverview, a team that did well in Class A last season, also will be part of the new realignment.
South Allegheny compiled an overall record of 5-15 last season, 2-10 in its old section.
Coach Ashleigh Hays, back for her third season, is stressing tried-and-true goals in the preseason.
“We're stressing fundamentals and building team chemistry,” Hays said.
Leading scorer Jay'Lee Patterson is back for South Allegheny along with sophomore Abby Dranko, a 5-foot-11 post player.
Also expected to help will be senior Allison Couch, juniors Mikayla Stearns, Carly Galley, Caitlyn DiMarco and sophomore Lauren Maize.
“We see every game as bringing a challenge, and we're excited to get going,” Hays said of her team's new section.
Hays will be assisted by Cari Skiffington.
South Allegheny will be trying to garner its first WPIAL berth since 2005, when the Gladiators defeated Brownsville in a preliminary-round Class AA game.
The Gladiators open section competition with Jeannette at home Dec. 13. But before that, South Allegheny will open the season at the Cornell Tip-off Tournament against the homestanding Raiders.
One problem facing the team is that a lack of players will prevent the school from fielding a junior varsity team.
George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- MLB notebook: Suspended O’s slugger Davis helps lift overturned pickup on interstate
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger hurting after big hit
- Pitt’s secondary has room for improvement
- Panthers notebook: O-line coach still uncertain who will start at center vs. Iowa
- Penguins notebook: Martin not concerned about expiring contract
- Penn State notebook: Hard-charging coach shifts his priorities
- Montessori School leadership changing hands after 22 years
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle quiet on rotation plans
- Police: Barracks ambush suspect sought mass murder
- Steelers veteran defenders want young teammates to step up
- Southmoreland student injured in school assault