South/West Xtra: Colts ride red-hot trio into state quarterfinals

BOYS BASKETBALL/PIAA PLAYOFFS


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As Chartiers Valley makes its annual trip deep into the postseason, a trio of players have been spending a lot of time behind the wheel.

Michael Boulos, Spencer Casson and Matty McConnell are the driving force for a Chartiers Valley team that finished as the WPIAL Class AAA runner-up and advanced to the PIAA playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years.

The Colts (24-4) routed District 6 champion Johnstown, 65-38, Tuesday. They advance to take on Archbishop Carroll of Radnor in Friday's quarterfinals.

Boulos (18 points per game), McConnell (16) and Casson (11) have combined to score 63 percent of Chartiers Valley's points and have also helped the Colts in several other key areas.

Casson is perhaps the biggest story. He has been huge, both literally and figuratively. Casson, a 6-foot-6 senior center, has provided the Colts with something coach Tim McConnell hasn't had too often over the years -- an excellent post presence to complement a backcourt that is annually one of the most potent in the WPIAL.

Casson averages close to a triple-double per game. In addition to his point total, Casson chips in 11.3 rebounds and 7.6 blocked shots a game. He's shot 61 percent from the field and 66 percent from the free-throw line. One-third of his rebounds have come on the offensive glass.

Swatting away shots on the defensive end has never been a problem for Casson, but it's been his increased offensive production that has play a critical role in Chartiers Valley's success.

"Last year, defensively, he blocked a lot of shots, but this year he's taken the bull by the horns and is really helping our offense," said coach McConnell, who cited confidence as being one of the main reasons for the improvement.

Two of Casson's best games were against Montour (10 points, 17 rebounds, 13 blocked shots) on Feb. 4 and against Keystone Oaks (22 points, 17 rebounds, 12 blocks) five days later. Casson has 204 blocks on the season and has had at least 10 blocks seven times.

"He's just tremendous defensively," McConnell said. "And it's not always the shots he blocks. He also alters a lot of shots. It's really been beneficial to us."

You could make a case that Boulos, the team's leading scorer, is also the Colts' most valuable player. Boulos, a 5-10 senior guard, can shoot from the outside -- he shoots 51 percent from the field overall -- but his athleticism and aggressiveness when driving to the hoop not only scores him points, but also opens up opportunities for teammates.

"He's so athletic and so strong. We go how he goes," McConnell said early this season.

Boulos, who was also the Colts leading rusher during the football season, has scored in double figures in all but two games. He's scored more than 20 points eight times, highlighted by a 31-point performance against Anchorage Christian of Alaska, in a tournament in Florida this past december. Boulos also averages nearly three steals per game.

Matty McConnell is only a sophomore, but he's the team's top 3-point shooter and most disruptive defender. A 5-11 guard, McConnell has broken double figures in scoring in all but five games and has gone for at least 20 points 12 times. He's made a team-best 67 3-pointers and has made 78 percent of his free throws.

But it's on defense where McConnell more closely mirrors his older brother, T.J., a former Colts standout who played two seasons at Duquesne and is sitting out this season at after transferring to Arizona. McConnell averages four steals a game for the Colts, who average more than 11 per contest as a team.

"I think [he's really improved] defensively. He reminds me a lot of T.J." Tim McConnell said. "His rebounding has also improved. He's not just a shooter. He's an assist guy and can rebound, too."

With Boulos, Casson and Matty McConnell leading the way, Chartiers Valley just might be able to successfully navigate the road to Hershey and play for a state title a week from now.

hsbasketball

First Published March 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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