The Montour Spartans have been highly successful the past two seasons, winning a WPIAL title and making it to the PIAA final twice. Some key players from last year's team have graduated, but the Spartans' winning ways haven't left. Under coach Adam Kaufman, Montour has a 7-1 record and is the Post-Gazette's No. 4 WPIAL Class AAA team. This year's team isn't as big, but the Spartans still feature one of the top point guards in Western Pennsylvania in Devin Wilson, as well as some role players who have found their niche and made the Spartans one of the top Class AAA teams once again.
A DIFFERENT STYLE
Wilson is 6-3, but he's a point guard. No other Montour starter is taller than 6-2. Wilson leads the team in scoring at 18.7 points a game and had a triple double last week against Beaver Falls. Kevin Scuilli, a sharpshooting 5-10 senior guard, averages 15.4. The other starters are 6-2 guard Justin Hill, 5-11 guard Robbie Julian and 6-1 forward Kyle Kutchman. The lack of size has made Montour change its style of play. The past two seasons, Montour played more of a methodical pace and preferred games in the 50s or even 40s. This season, Montour is averaging 70 points a game. "Me being the control freak that I am, what we did the last two years is hard to let go sometimes," Kaufman said with a laugh. "We're trying to play a little faster because we're a little more athletic and quicker. This group of guys really shares the ball well, so I'm trying to let them just play a little more. We've done some things with a motion offense where we have only a few rules. More than anything, we're trying to simplify it and just let them go. But I'll be honest. I think it's more difficult on me than the kids." An example of Montour's change of style? Last year's team had about 15 quick-hitter plays. "This year we have about five or six," Kaufman said.
BIG GAME TONIGHT
Montour is in one of the biggest games so far this season tonight when the Spartans play at Chartiers Valley, the No. 1-ranked WPIAL Class AAA team. Although Chartiers Valley will play only its second game without starting point guard Jerrad Tuite (season-ending knee injury), the Colts are still strong. "For us to be with them, we can't turn the ball over," Kaufman said. "It's kind of weird, but I'm really, really looking forward to playing them and it has nothing to do with winning and losing. It's just really nice to have games like this in January. It will be a playoff-type atmosphere. We're going against a great program and a great coach. We didn't have this with Chartiers Valley the last two years because they were in Quad-A." Game time is 7:30.
FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL FOR WILSON?
Wilson still has not decided whether he will play football or basketball in college, although it seems he now has more options in basketball than football. Wilson, the all-time leading receiver in WPIAL football, had scholarship offers from North Carolina State and a few Mid-American Conference schools for football. But due to some coaching changes at a few colleges, some of those scholarship offers are in doubt. But Wilson now has seven or eight scholarship offers for basketball. Duquesne has become more interested for basketball, but hasn't offered a scholarship yet. George Washington, George Mason and Western Michigan have picked up the interest for basketball. St. Bonaventure and Rider had already offered for basketball. "He's basically just hanging around yet, deciding what he wants to do," Kaufman said.
COMING BACK TO THEIR ROOTS
Kaufman is a former standout guard at Montour (1997 graduate) who went on to an outstanding career at Edinboro University. Five years ago, he was named to Edinboro's all-time team. The other three members of Kaufman's staff at Montour also are former Montour players. Adam Scuilli graduated from Montour in 1999, Barry Walsh in 2000 and Daren Tielsch 2001.
SPIFFY NEW DIGS
Montour is building a new gymnasium that could be ready for play by Feb. 1. It is a 1,500-seat facility with chair-back seating. "It's beautiful. It's state-of-the-art," Kaufman said. "There are tunnels coming off the corners of the court and seats above the tunnels, so it's kind of like a college arena."
THIS AND THAT
Wilson has been on Montour's varsity since his freshman year in football and basketball. In that time, he has been part of 108 wins in the two sports (70 in basketball and 38 in football). ... One of Montour's top players off the bench is senior guard Lemonte Harrison, who is playing for his third team in three years. Harrison played at Oliver as a sophomore and Sto-Rox as a junior. ... Harrison's nickname among his teammates is "Mister." But Kaufman said, "I refuse to call him that. He's Lemonte to me." ... Assistant coach Adam Scuilli is the brother of senior guard Kevin Scuilli. ... Two summers ago, Adam Scuilli won the club championship at Chartiers Country Club, but lost on the final day last year. ... Montour won a section title last year for the first time since 2001.
Mike White: email@example.com