South Xtra: West Mifflin basketball handling pressure just fine

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West Mifflin graduated only two starters from last season but those two starters are who coach Lance Maha would describe as ball handlers.

The two graduated starters, Anthony Rotella and Kyron Mason, have been replaced by two players Maha would describe as athletic -- senior shooting guard Josh Harris and senior center Cleve Randolph.

So while this may not be the best ball handling team Maha has coached in his 17 years at West Mifflin, it is one of the most athletic.

Harris and Randolph join three returning starters, senior point guard Ryan Maha, senior guard/small forward Derek Fulmore and senior power forward Cye Murphy to give the Titans one of the top starting five rotations in Class AAA.

Through eight games West Mifflin is 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Section 4-AAA. With wins against section foes East Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward and Ringgold, West Mifflin has emerged as the favorite in Section 4-AAA.

"I would think that right now, having seen all the teams in the section, us, Steel Valley and Thomas Jefferson are probably the top three teams," Lance Maha said. "We are probably in a position to compete for the section title but it is going to be very competitive. Us three schools are pretty close rivals, it will be interesting."

The Titans finished second in the section last year after winning the section crown two years ago.

Ryan Maha, the son of the coach, scored 15 points per game last season and was named to the all-section team. On Thursday night in the first round of the Seton-LaSalle tournament he hit five 3-pointers on his way to a 30-point game in West Mifflin's 70-58 win against Brashear. Ryan Maha is averaging more than 20 points per game.

Fulmore is a three-sport athlete, an all-state player in football and a track standout. On the basketball court his coach says he is arguably the best defender in the WPIAL. He leads West Mifflin in rebounding. Both Fulmore and Murphy averaged eight points and five rebounds per game last season.

Maha plans to go about eight deep with junior guards Brian Kolar and Ryan Catalonga and junior forward Mike Peterson his first three players off the bench.

With all five starters at least 6-foot tall, West Mifflin is by no means a small team but Randolph at 6 feet 8, 275 pounds, is the only player in the eight-man rotation taller than 6-2.

The Titans have allowed 46.7 points per game this season through seven games, best in Class AAA but their coach thinks there is more room for improvement.

They moved to more of a zone defensive scheme this year with Randolph on the inside it made more sense than a man-to- man defense.

"We can improve to be a pretty good defensive team," Maha said. "As the year goes on we will get better in that area. We typically hang our hat on our defense."

Offensively West Mifflin is only averaging 56.3 points per game through seven games, only fourth best in the seven-team section.

"This isn't my best ball handling team but offensively we are pretty athletic," Maha said.

Teams have countered Ryan Maha's red-hot shooting with box-and-one defenses.

"We are getting better and better and maneuvering around it," Lance Maha said of the box-and-one defense. "Now we are getting three or four guys in double figures every game, we weren't getting that the first couple games of the year."



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