West Xtra: OLSH coach OK with tough loss


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Losing a basketball game in the final seconds and by only two points might infuriate some high school coaches.

Mike Rodriguez, however, was able to find some positives following his Our Lady of the Sacred Heart boys basketball team's 60-58 non-section loss against Serra Catholic last Friday.

"We played very hard against a very good basketball team," said Rodriguez, who is in his fifth season at OLSH. "It was a great high school game. Serra has a very nice team and is always well-coached. I'm proud of our effort.

"Both teams came to play. I'd like to think that if we made a couple more layups and some free throws it would have been a different game."

The Chargers (5-1) took a 47-43 lead entering the final quarter against the Eagles. Serra's Tyler Grebur, though, made a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in the game to give Serra (7-0, 2-0) the victory.

"We're growing together as a team," Rodriguez said. "Regardless of the outcome against Serra, the way we played bodes well for our future. That's a game that will only make us stronger."

With victories against St. Joseph, Freedom Area, Laurel, Fort Cherry and Burgettstown Area, respectively, OLSH opened its schedule with a perfect run through its first five opponents.

"The boys are starting to execute," said Rodriguez, whose group failed to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs last season despite finishing with a 15-6 overall record.

"We didn't return any starters from last year, and we have two guys out with injuries and a couple players sick. This is a very young team, but they're working very hard."

Through their first six games, the Chargers have been without the services of senior guards Stefan Arch and Isiah Neely.

Arch, who was the team's leading scorer last season with an average of 11 points and seven rebounds, has been sidelined with concussion symptoms. Last January, Arch collided with a teammate during a practice and missed the remainder of the season.

Neely, a star running back on OLSH's football team, is still recovering from a broken ankle he incurred during a Sept. 21 game against Sto-Rox.

With Arch still unable to play, 6-foot-3 junior Cameron Johnson has taken the lead as the starting point guard. Johnson, a Moon Area transfer, along with junior guard Kendall Paige, both have proven to be valuable assets for the Chargers.

Against Serra, Paige paced OLSH with a team-high 22 points, while Johnson followed with 17.

"Cameron Johnson has been a solid addition for us and has a high basketball IQ," Rodriguez said. "Kendall has become a very good player. It's been great to watch him develop.

"They both have assumed the role as leaders. They lead by example and our team is fortunate to have them."

Junior forwards Ian Schrenk and Nick Metz as well as sophomore guard Hunter Szilagy round out the Chargers' starting five. Juniors Derek McMonagle and Evan Zernich as well as sophomores Joe Sebes and Cedric Gray all have contributed off the bench.

"We like to think that we work with what we have," Rodriguez said. "The kids have learned the system and know that we fully expect to be a good basketball team."

The Chargers will play host to a holiday tournament Friday and Saturday, with Eden Christian playing Chartiers-Houston and Avella playing the host team in the first round with consolation and championship games the next night.

OLSH will dive into its Section 1-A schedule when it plays host to Rochester on Jan. 4.

"We play in one of the toughest sections in Single-A," Rodriguez said. "Lincoln Park is always good. Union has one of its best teams in years this season, and you can never count out Cornell. It's a very competitive section."

Still, Rodriguez admits his young team will only improve with experience this season.

"We have to minimize our mistakes, especially during crucial times during a game," Rodriguez said. "Teams are going to make mistakes and there's going to be moments when a young team makes errors. Everything comes with experience.

"We're growing and maturing right now, but I still believe the future is bright for us."



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