West Mifflin briefly escaped the cold weather when it traveled to Florida for a tournament in December.
It wasn't until the Titans got back that they became sizzling hot from 3-point range.
West Mifflin has shot the ball from the perimeter as well as any WPIAL team over the past month. The Titans averaged 13 3-pointers per game in January. The fewest the Titans had during that eight-game span was eight, and they came within two of the school record when they connected on 15 against Ringgold on Jan. 24.
"We really emphasize taking good 3-point shots," Titans coach Lance Maha said. "We try to play up-tempo. Our kids down low aren't big scorers. For us, especially against bigger teams, we're hoping to gain an advantage from the 3-point line if we can."
It's worked particularly well recently with West Mifflin winning its past three section games and four of its past five. Last week, the Titans made 13 3-pointers in a 77-71 win at Belle Vernon Area and 14 in an 82-70 home triumph against Class AAA No. 5 Steel Valley.
The latter qualified the Titans for the WPIAL playoffs for the 10th season in a row. They made 8 of 9 of their 3-point attempts in the second half of that game. The Titans are 10-5 overall and in fourth place in Section 4 with a 6-4 record. They close out section play with games at Ringgold (tonight) and Thomas Jefferson (Friday).
"I think depth-wise this is probably our best perimeter shooting team," said Maha, who is in his 17th season at his alma mater. "We have four or five guys who can shoot it."
Maha's son, Ryan, is one of the top perimeter shooters in the WPIAL. The elder Maha called his son the best 3-point shooter he's coached at West Mifflin. Ryan Maha, a senior guard and Carnegie Mellon recruit, leads the Titans in scoring with 19.7 points per game and is averaging three-and-a-half 3-pointers per game. He scored his 1,000th career point in last week's win at Belle Vernon.
The 3-point proficiency doesn't end there. Sophomore guard Karlyn Garner, who quarterbacked the school's football team, has been knocking them down regularly, as have a pair of guards who have provided the team instant offense off the bench -- sophomore Josh Long and junior Aaron Adams. Long drained six 3-pointers against Steel Valley.
Due to the long-range shooting and playing at a faster pace offensively, West Mifflin averaged 79 points per game in January. The Titans scored 90 against Belle Vernon on Jan. 3, the team's highest offensive output since 2005.
With the playoffs nearing, a key storyline is the health of Ryan Maha, who has played the entire season with an injured knee. Lance Maha said scar tissue has built up in his son's knee around the patellar tendon.
Surgery has been scheduled for later this month and Lance Maha said it's possible Ryan could be "shut down" for the season at some point. Maha has not practiced since December and has sat out a few games to get some extra rest.
These battle-tested Titans hope to have their star in the lineup when they begin what they hope will be a long playoff run.
"This section has been a war," he said. "I can't imagine games in the playoffs being much tougher than going to [Thomas Jefferson] or [Elizabeth Forward]. I really think if we get the right matchups and in the right bracket, we can definitely make some noise."
Lebo girls stifle Bethel
Mt. Lebanon gave up a quick field goal on the first possession of the game in its showdown against visiting Bethel Park last Saturday. The Blue Devils didn't surrender another until the second half.
It what was an extraordinary defensive performance, Class AAAA No. 3 Mt. Lebanon held No. 2 Bethel Park without a field goal for more than 16 minutes in a 37-26 win. After Bethel Park's Shannon Conely scored a basket less than a minute into the game, the Black Hawks didn't make another field goal until Conely scored again just under a minute into the second half.
Mt. Lebanon held Bethel Park to three points in the first quarter and four in the second en route to a 23-7 halftime lead, and limited the Black Hawks to their fewest points in more than six years.
The win was huge for Mt. Lebanon (14-4, 9-1), which jumped ahead of Bethel Park (15-2, 8-2) for sole possession of first place in Section 4. Five nights earlier, Bethel Park had dealt Mt. Lebanon its first section loss, 52-38.