Kiski Area boys look forward to nearby matchups
While many teams have found more extensive travel with the PIAA's move from four to six classifications, that's not the case with the Kiski Area boys basketball team.
With the move to the new 5A class, gone are the mid-winter road trips to distant points such as Connellsville and Albert Gallatin.
Now, the Cavaliers will play the likes of Armstrong, Greensburg Salem and Franklin Regional, three schools that geographically border Kiski Area. Highlands, just across the river from Allegheny Township and Gateway, a short jaunt from Cavaliers Country, round out the new section.
“I'm loving it,” coach Joe Tutchstone said. “We don't have a section travel date that's over 25 minutes. That's very nice. A lot of people are saying it's easy that we're not in the old Quad-A, but all six teams here are the type that could make the playoffs.”
The Cavaliers will make their Class 5A debut with a senior-laden team.
Delino Franklin will be the point guard and Nick Bisceglia will be in the 2-guard spot.
In the middle will be 6-foot-5 senior Connor Martin, and Jonathan Bracy will be one of the forwards.
The last starting spot is up for grabs between two more seniors — Noah Clayton and Kyle Harris.
The major loss from last season is DeShawon Bracy, now playing football at Thiel College.
Last year, it was a frustrating 4-8 in the old Section 1-AAAA, and 7-13 overall. Half of the section losses were by 11 points or fewer, and several of the nonsection games could have gone in Kiski Area's favor with stronger fourth-quarter performances.
“I expect them to learn from mistakes over the past year,” Tutchstone said. “You have to make plays in the fourth quarter. It's as simple as that.”
The fourth-year coach had his team busy in the offseason.
“This is the first time we've had a summer with a season's worth of games,” Tutchstone said. “We had another season and a half in the fall. Not only do we have to have athleticism, we have to put the ball in the hoop. I expect us to score a little more than in the past.”
Kiski Area will open its 55th basketball season Dec. 9 against Ambridge in the Shaler Tip-off tournament. The host Titans and Perry will play in the other opening game.
The Cavaliers will have a buzzsaw during the second week of the season, with games against perennial playoff contender Plum, WPIAL contender Latrobe, then a Dec. 16 game at Indiana, Class AAA champ two years ago.
“We're tightening everything up and make sure we're fundamentally sound,” Tutchstone said of his team's plan of attack. “We have to make good decisions with the basketball both offensively and defensively.”
Kiski Area will open section play Jan. 3 at Gateway.
In one stretch of January, the Cavaliers have five of six games on the home floor and hope to make some headway.
One interesting confrontation will be when the Cavaliers play Armstrong on Jan. 17 and Feb. 7. Tutchstone will be matching wits with River Hawks coach and former teammate Greg Hutcherson. Both played on successful teams in 2002 and '03.
George Guido is a freelance writer.