In 20 years of coaching the Chartiers Valley High School boys basketball team, Tim McConnell has had some wonderful seasons.
The one just completed might have been his most challenging ... and most rewarding.
Champions of WPIAL Class AAA Section 5with an 11-1 record, the Colts ended their season with a 24-5 mark after a 49-46 loss to Archbishop Carroll, a Catholic school located in Radnor, a suburb located northeast of Philadelphia, this past Friday in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals at Chambersburg Area High School.
"It's amazing what our team was able to do without Jarrad Tuite, one of the top point guards in the WPIAL," McConnell said.
Tuite and the Colts were in Orlando, Fla., about two weeks before Christmas competing in the KSA Classic Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
"[Tuite] was coming down the floor, and he planted his left foot," McConnell recalled. "When he did that, he grabbed his knee. It looked like he had just torn his [anterior cruciate ligament]. I got out there, and his kneecap had fractured in half. His kneecap was showing through his skin, and it was pretty gruesome. I got sick myself [looking at the injury]."
With Tuite, a 5-foot-9 junior, gone for the season, the Colts coach moved quickly to find a new point guard, and he was pleased with the way Haedyn Herzer, a 5-8 junior, assumed Tuite's responsibilities.
"[Herzer] just stepped in right away and took over," McConnell said. "He did what was asked of him, and it was nice to see that he was ready for his moment when his name was called."
Fans and opposing teams were aware of the scoring prowess of Michael Boulos, a 5-10 senior guard, and 5-11 sophomore guard Matty McConnell, the coach's son. They led the team's offense, averaging 18.6 points and 16.3 points, respectively. But that adds up to about half of the 70.7 points the Colts averaged this season.
McConnell said most of Chartiers Valley's other points were scored by Spencer Casson, a 6-6 senior center (11 ppg), Dom Costello, a 5-8 junior guard (8 ppg), and Herzer (7 ppg).
"Mostly, it was those five," the coach said. "Haedyn did what a good point guard was supposed to do, and that's distribute the ball. He averaged five to six assists a game."
Boulos and Casson are graduating, but McConnell will welcome 11 players back for the 2013-14 season. The prospects for a good season are likely.
"We will miss Mike and Spencer, but I am excited about the group coming back," Tim McConnell said. "We'll have to change things a bit because we won't have the shot blocker [inside]. We're going to have to use our speed, take some great shots, be as fast as we can and average more than 70 points."
McConnell called the season "a great ride" and believes the Colts' appearances in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game and the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament should motivate the returning players.
"We're going to have individual meetings with each of our returning players, and we'll let them know what our expectations are with their offseason workouts and try to see what we need to be successful next year," he said. "If we have guys who are willing to work like they did last year, that's going to help a lot."
He believes Tuite will be a part of the team's plans for next season.
"He's going to have to wait until August before he can do anything as far as contact is concerned," McConnell said. "But we're looking forward to having him back."
And he's looking forward to another season of competition in Section 5, which he believes is the best section in that classification.
"The players and the coaches make this a very good section," he said. "It's a tough section every year."
McConnell will continue to coach because he enjoys his relationship with his Colts players and with those who have moved on to college and beyond.
He's had his share of success with three WPIAL Class AAA championships (1997, 1998, 2010), three second-place finishes in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament (1996, 2007, 2013), a runner-up finish in the 2011 WPIAL Class AAAA tournament and second-place finishes in the 1998 and 2010 PIAA Class AAA tournament.
Memories such as that stick with McConnell, and he hopes his past players can inspire those suiting up for the Colts.
"When you get a run like the one we had this year, I got a lot of phone calls and text messages from former players," the coach said. "They remember the runs we had when they played, and I enjoy being involved with a program like the one we have [at Chartiers Valley].
"It's nice to win, but it's even better when you've had an impact upon someone's life through the athletics. If I've helped them to be successful, then that's what makes coaching so enjoyable."
First Published March 21, 2013 4:00 AM