West Xtra: Western Beaver's Miller is WPIAL's leading scorer

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Since the beginning of high school boys basketball season, only one player owned the spotlight as the WPIAL's leading scorer.

Each and every week during the regular season, Western Beaver's Nick Miller topped the list of points leaders by averaging around 30 points a game.

"We expected him to do good things for us, but we never expected him to score 30 points a game," longtime Western Beaver coach Joe Podolak said. "Without a doubt he's our leader. When things start going wrong on the court, the guys look toward Nick. He's like a quarterback and a coach on the floor."

Through 19 games, Miller, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, finished the regular season with a WPIAL-best average of 29.7 points a game.

"[Leading the WPIAL in scoring] has been pretty cool, but what I've enjoyed the most has been winning," said Miller, who lives in Industry. "I think we won 10 games my sophomore year and then just six last season, so to have 13 wins now is more than what I expected.

"I've tried not to focus on my stats as much as worry more about winning games."

Behind Miller, Western Beaver enters the WPIAL Class A playoffs after posting a 13-6 overall record. The Golden Beavers went 5-5 in Section 1-A and finished behind section-winner Lincoln Park and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and tied with Union for third place.

Lincoln Park has been ranked the Post-Gazette's No. 1 team in Class A all season, while OLSH was ranked No. 4 last week.

"We play in the toughest section in Class A and that's definitely going to help us in the playoffs," Miller said. "Every night has been like a playoff game with a playoff atmosphere."

Miller surpassed the 1,000-point career scoring plateau after scoring 31 against Deer Lakes in a non-section game on Dec. 13 and stands as Western Beaver's all-time leading scorer with more than 1,400 career points.

"Nick doesn't just play offense," Podolak said. "People get the wrong idea that he just scores points. He plays very good defense and is one of our top guys in assists. He's always looking for other players.

"He's truly a complete player. I think there are some college teams that might need a player like Nick. He's been getting some interest, but I think there are some other local teams missing the boat because this kid can play."

Miller had a breakout season as a sophomore when he averaged 17.8 points a game. He earned all-section honors last year by averaging 24.4 points as a junior.

"He has worked hard to become a better player," Podolak said. "He's the first one on the floor for practice and usually the last one to leave the court. He's shooting consistently and puts 100 percent in when working on shooting drills.

"I could see that he was going to be a special player as a ninth and 10th grader, and certainly has worked hard to become a better player."

A three-sport athlete, Miller starred as a wide receiver/cornerback on the Golden Beavers football team. He also helped Western Beaver win a WPIAL baseball championship last season as a starting pitcher and shortstop. His father, Chad Miller, is Western Beaver's baseball coach.

Basketball, however, remains the younger Miller's true passion.

"I definitely put in the work over the summer," he said. "There weren't too many days I took off. I took a lot of jump shots every day ... plus I put on about 30 pounds."

Besides Miller, Podolak has relied on 6-0 senior guard Steve Robison, 6-3 senior center Jared Postupac, 6-3 junior forward Cody Acon and 6-3 junior forward Jared Fye. Ed Doyle, a 5-11 senior guard, also has contributed off the bench.

"This team is definitely more than just me," Miller said. "Without my teammates I couldn't score. We have three guys averaging 10 points a game, and the games where I haven't scored a lot, there have been guys who stepped in and scored 20 or more."

Despite closing out the regular season with back-to-back section losses against OLSH and Lincoln Park, respectively, Miller believes Western Beaver has the ability to make waves in the Class A playoff bracket.

The Golden Beavers will play Carmichaels (15-5, 7-3), which tied Clairton for second in Section 3-A, in the first round at 8 p.m. Friday at Moon Area High School.

"It all starts with defense for us," he said. "When we play good defense we can create turnovers and that leads to scoring. Defense is going to be the most important thing for us in the playoffs."

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