Whether they are playing in a defensive struggle scoring in the 30s or in a shootout, scoring in the 70s, the Central Valley boys basketball team feels quite comfortable.
The Warriors have topped 70 points three times this season, they have also played games that finished with neither team reaching 40 points. They have won games by scores of 74-72 and 48-27.
Regardless of pace, Central Valley feels comfortable and far more often than not, comes out with a win. Through 19 games the Warriors are 13-6 overall and 7-2 in Class AAA Section 2, a half-game behind Beaver Area (15-2, 8-2) and tied with Blackhawk (11-7, 7-2) for second place. They defeated Beaver, 74-53, Tuesday to tighten the section race.
"It is odd how some of our games go," coach Brandon Ambrose said. "It really depends on the tempo. Some teams like to slow it down. We feel like we can play it both ways. We are willing to slow the ball down, delay the ball ... we really don't care where we play."
In Central Valley's first section meeting with Ambridge, it defeated the Bridgers, 74-72. Last Tuesday in a rematch it was Ambridge getting the upper hand in an entirely different type of game, winning, 38-32, in overtime.
"Some teams want to be in the 70s and 80s; we will win any way we can," Ambrose said. "That is what I like about our team; they are comfortable playing any style. One night we went up and down with Beaver Falls, the night before we played a half-court game with Ambridge."
The varying tempos have a lot to do with Central Valley's versatility, the depth of the bench and Ambrose's style of coaching.
The Warriors will run a full-court zone press and also go man-to-man in the half-court in an attempt to change the pace of the game. Ambrose has the luxury of a deep bench, the deepest he has had in his three years with the program. He routinely uses nine players in a game.
"This is the first year we have played this many guys," Ambrose said. "And it lets us use a lot of different defenses. We are pressing a lot and speeding up the tempo. When you have nine guys to play, it is a luxury. We really haven't played this many before. We just felt like we had many kids who could play -- they are athletic and instinctual."
Junior point guard Michael Sims, sophomore guard Chris Anastas, junior guards Jacob St. George and Brian Kolich and junior center Matthew Kline start for Central Valley.
Kolich leads the team averaging 12.6 points per game. It is a balanced scoring attack with a different top scorer nearly every night. Sims averages 9.7 points per game. In the past few weeks Kolich led the team with 15 against Beaver Falls and 20 against West Allegheny, Sims led the team with 11 against Ambridge, St. George led with 15 against Aliquippa and Kline with 11 versus Ellwood City.
St. George is one of the WPIAL leaders in steals this season. He had 90 through 18 games.
Off the bench Ambrose calls on junior guard/forward Tony Gates, sophomore forward William Powell, sophomore guard John George and senior center Ryan Michaels.
"We only had three lettermen back and only one senior on the team," Ambrose said. "We really play a lot of sophomores and juniors. We are pleased with the development of the guys.
"I didn't want to say we were in a rebuilding year but we didn't have a lot of starters back."
After the Beaver game Central Valley closes out its regular season with section contests against Ellwood City, Blackhawk and Hopewell.
"We feel good about where we are," Ambrose said.