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Basketball

Leechburg boys basketball team strives for more consistency this season

| Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
Leechburg's Ryan McDermott works out during practice at the high school Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Leechburg's Ryan McDermott works out during practice at the high school Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Leechburg's John Burtick during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Leechburg's John Burtick during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Leechburg's Blake Steininger dribbles during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Leechburg's Blake Steininger dribbles during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Leechburg boys coach Damian Davies talks to players during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Leechburg boys coach Damian Davies talks to players during practice at the high school on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.

After a roller-coaster season that saw the Leechburg boys basketball team start off hot, cool off and then finish with four wins in its last six games, consistency has become a point of emphasis for this season.

“We had a good second half of the season,” Leechburg coach Damian Davies said.

Last season, Leechburg finished in last place in Section 4-A with three wins and went 9-10 overall. At their best, the Blue Devils were good enough to pull off a 57-42 win over playoff-bound St. Joseph to finish the season. At their worst, they started 2014 with six straight losses in January.

Leechburg's up-and-down season wasn't from a lack of numbers. If there is one strength Leechburg basketball has, it's the number of players. The team continuously boasts more players than the football team.

Davies has one of his largest teams in recent memory with 36 players on this season's roster. That's eight more players than this past season's football team.

“Biggest challenge is having 36 guys and one district gym. I have a lot of coaches helping to maximize our time,” Davies said. “We believe in inclusion and not exclusion, and if you put the time in, we're going to find a way to keep you here.”

With just four seniors on last year's team, Davies has plenty of experienced players looking to make their mark.

He's looking for seniors Jake Gard and Mike Koleny to provide the team with leadership. Senior 6-foot-3 center Jordan Cominos' physical style should help the team's post game and rebounding.

“We're going to play up-tempo defensively,” Davies said. “I think it's going to be a lot of fun to play and watch us play.”

Senior 6-foot guard Ryan McDermott is a streaky shooter and Davies thinks he could give the team a spark.

“He puts a tremendous amount of time in,” Davies said. “I'm happy for him that he's going to get a chance to do well.”

For his age and stature, 5-6 sophomore John Burtick plays big and has no problem mixing it up. Burtick showed some composure last season when he drained a free-throw with .07 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a 54-53 win over Harvest Baptist in the Apollo Christmas tournament.

“He's quick, has a knack for scoring and is a strong leader,” Davies said. “He's not afraid to talk on the court, and that is a positive trait.”

Davies describes junior Blake Steininger as a great facilitator of the ball who will be looked at to control the pace of the game.

“He just plays a lot of basketball,” Davies said. “He's always working on making his game better, and I love that about him He makes a lot of other guys look good with his ball-handling.”

Sophomore Cory Nulph's quick release from behind the arc could get the attention of Leechburg fans.

The Blue Devils also will make new friends and get reacquainted with old ones this season. They move to Section 2-A and square off against familiar foes Springdale, Riverview and St. Joseph. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Vincentian Academy are expected to be the class of the section.

“I enjoy watching this team play. They recognize they are only here for a limited amount of time, and they play some ball and get after it,” Davies said.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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