Soon after the Sto-Rox boys basketball team began its season, Makil Allen quickly knew the Vikings would need some type of leadership on the court.
"In big games, you need a leader and sometimes you have to be that leader," said Allen, a 6-foot-6 junior center. "That's why Lenny [Williams] and I put it on our backs to be leaders.
"All we do is think about winning and helping this team win games."
Williams, a 6-0 junior guard and a standout quarterback for the school's WPIAL finalist football team, along with Allen have been credited by Sto-Rox coach Bill Minear as key reasons for the Vikings' success this season.
"They have both become more vocal this year," Minear said. "As guys grow as players, these guys have grown as leaders. They have been vocal on the court and have shown that leadership we needed.
"Lenny and Makil give us a lot of stability toward next year and that bodes well for us in the future."
After posting a 1-3 start after their first four games, the Vikings turned their season around and ended up capturing a section title with a 10-2 mark in Section 6-AA, finishing the regular season at 14-8.
"I'm really proud that these guys were able to win a section championship," Minear said. "We started the year 1-3 and regrouped to win a section title. That's a great statement made by this young group of guys."
Sto-Rox, ranked No. 5 in Class AA by the Post-Gazette, entered the WPIAL playoffs with a first-round bye as a No. 4 seed and faced Apollo-Ridge Wednesday night.
"We've played much better during the second half of the season," said Allen, who lives in McKees Rocks. "The big thing for us has been in practice. The more we improve every day in practice the better we play in games. We've been up and ready for anyone."
Allen paced Sto-Rox in rebounding during the regular season with an average of 14 boards and 10 points a game. He scored a team-best 15 points during the Vikings' 58-40 regular-season finale loss against neighboring rival Montour on Feb. 11 in a non-section game.
"Makil has been our most consistent guy," Minear said. "The biggest thing he brings for us is his unselfish play. He also gives us about five assists a game, and you usually don't get those types of numbers from a center.
"He has a team-first attitude and never worries about getting the ball. He's very willing to get his teammates involved and never worries about individual stats, which is kind of hard to find in a player nowadays."
Meanwhile, Williams, a gifted athlete, averaged 12 points and eight rebounds during the regular season.
"The amazing thing about Lenny is how humble he is for a guy who gets so much attention, especially for what he does on the football field," Minear said. "He never lost his focus and became another leader this season. He's been more vocal and it took time for him to grow into that.
"Lenny also brings an all-round game. His effort is unmatched. He gets after the ball and always wants to guard the other team's best player. He always wants that challenge."
Besides Williams and Allen, senior guard Tonyea Curry also has been a consistent presence in Minear's starting lineup. Curry, a transfer from Carrick, led the team in scoring during the regular season with an average of 14 points a game.
Senior guard Tony Franzley, who averages 10 points a game, along with junior guard Brendan Blair, senior guard Ben Shackleford, junior forward Elisha Bonner, senior forward Jason Rippole as well as sophomore guards Craig Johnson and Javelle Kirkland all have contributed quality minutes as either starters or additional depth off the bench.
Minear, who didn't start the same five players in more than two consecutive games during the regular season, continuously rotated his 10-man roster.
"Our success has been about the right combination on that night," he said. "We never came up with the right set of guys, but we've been able to use our depth to our advantage."
Last year, Sto-Rox captured a Section 5-AA title with a perfect 10-0 record before finishing with a 23-4 overall record. The Vikings lost to Beaver Falls in the WPIAL semifinals and then fell to Quaker Valley during the second round of the PIAA tournament.
"We had a rough start this season," said Williams, who also lives in McKees Rocks. "We had to find ourselves and start to play together as a team. We're all on the same page now.
"We have athleticism and a solid bench. We may not have the size of other teams but we have guys who know their roles and who give nothing less."