North Xtra: Despite tough schedule, Knoch a playoff qualifier
February 7, 2013 5:00 AM
Junior Austin Miller serves as the team catalyst for Knoch.
By Ryan Riordan Tri-State Sports & News Service
Rob McNabb wasn't named Knoch's boys basketball coach until late in the summer, so he didn't make out the team's schedule.
Thus, he had no control over the Knights having back-to-back non-conference games last week against strong teams in Hampton and Chartiers Valley.
"Honestly, I wasn't hired until late July so I didn't have much input [on the schedule]," McNabb said. "It's a rough week with those two teams on the schedule."
Not surprisingly, the Knights (11-9, 6-5 Class AAA Section 1) lost both games. They were competitive, however, in the first half of each contest, and actually took a one-point lead into the break against the Colts. But Knoch could not keep pace in the second half and lost both games by double digits.
Senior forward Dakota Bruggeman said the team's play coming out of halftime has been an ongoing issue for the team this season and the Knights have been trying to correct the problem during practice.
"No one really has the answer to why," Bruggeman said. "Maybe we just get comfortable.
"But we've been trying to fix it during practice. We'll work really hard, then take a long break and try to come out and regain our focus. We've done well in practice, we just need to translate it to games."
Despite the losses to the Colts and Talbots, Bruggeman still had a good week after committing to play football at Division II Alderson-Broaddus College in Phillipi, W.Va. Bruggeman was the Knights' quarterback. Meanwhile, Knoch clinched a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA playoff field.
It's the athleticism of Bruggeman and his teammates that has allowed McNabb to instill an up-tempo system. The Knights are averaging more than four points per game more this season than in 2011-12.
"We're athletic enough and have the players capable of pushing the ball up the floor," McNabb said. "Plus it's just more fun for them to run up and down the court instead of making 15 passes before scoring."
In addition to Bruggeman, senior Marc Vaughan has been instrumental down low for the Knights. He had a team-high 17 points against Chartiers Valley Friday.
But it's Austin Miller who makes the team go. A junior, he is the team's catalyst, as well as one of its top scorers.
"Austin Miller is really good in the open floor," McNabb said.
When Miller needs to find someone on the wing, he often looks to David Gallagher, the team's top shooter.
Although the offense has been solid, one area where McNabb wants the team to buckle down is on defense.
"Our defense has been very inconsistent," McNabb said. "At the beginning of the season, I thought we would be very good defensively and have trouble scoring points. But it's been the opposite."
McNabb said the team's faults on defense have nothing to do with effort, however. He has been pleased with how hard the team has played, it just needs to work on the fundamentals.
He only has two games left to get the defense corrected and try to get on a roll heading into the postseason.
"That's why I worried about playing Hampton and Chartiers Valley," McNabb said. "On one hand, it's a great test and should prepare us for the postseason. But you also want to have some momentum."