North Xtra: North Allegheny reloads on the run

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In R.J. Colabrese, Sean Hennigan, Adam Haus, Luke Soyster and James Meeker, the North Allegheny basketball team lost five three-year varsity players who won a combined 58 games, including 22 last season.

But the Tigers haven't skipped a beat this season, and are actually scoring at a higher clip.

North Allegheny improved to 6-0 Friday with a 71-69 victory against Seneca Valley. The Tigers, who averaged 70.4 points per game last season, are scoring more than 79 points per game so far this season.

"The one thing about this program is that every year, we're highly competitive," North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said. "There aren't any blips. Every year we seem to have some strong seniors and we'll work in some underclassmen and get them experience."

Three key returnees for North Allegheny this season are seniors David Haus, Joe Mancini and Elijah Zeise. All three saw extensive time on last season's WPIAL semifinalist and PIAA tournament qualifier.

They have meshed well with fellow senior Luke Gwaltney, juniors Mike Carter, Mike Fischer, Cole Constantino, Jordan Lake and Will Sandherr and sophomore Keegan Phillips to give the Tigers one of the deepest teams in the league.

"This summer, we were working five times a week just trying to come together as a team," Haus said. "We're starting to click now. We're definitely getting better and the work in the offseason is the key to it."

When the Tigers are playing well as a team, they are tough to stop because so many different players on North Allegheny can score. Through six games, Carter, Zeise, Haus, Mancini and Constantino were all averaging in double figures.

The balanced attack was on display in the team's win against the Raiders, where Mancini, Carter, Haus and Constantino all had between 13 and 15 points.

"Teams can't just focus on one player to stop because we all can score," Haus said. "It could be a different guy each game."

The Seneca Valley game, the first time any team came within 18 points of the Tigers this season, also highlighted North Allegheny's biggest weakness according to Degregorio -- a sustained level of play throughout the game.

North Allegheny jumped out to a 26-17 lead early in the first quarter, but Seneca Valley was able to get back into the game with a 19-0 run that spanned parts of the third and fourth quarters.

"We've struggled sustaining a consistent level of effort," DeGregorio said. "We have to stay focused throughout.

"Sometimes our level has been spotty, other times it's been great. But that's something that can improve and it makes our room for growth significant."

If the Tigers get past Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Butler in their first two games after Christmas, they'll be undefeated when they get their two biggest tests of the season in a four-day span -- road games at No. 2 Hampton on Jan. 7 and No. 1 New Castle on Jan. 10.

All five of North Allegheny's losses last season came against the Talbots and Hurricanes. DeGregorio said he isn't sure how his team will match up with last season's WPIAL finalists, but he knows what he expects from his Tigers this year and every year.

"Every year, we're realistically talking about winning championships," DeGregorio said.

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