East Xtra: Wilkinsburg discovers right formula to succeed in basketball
Wilkinsburg's Isaiah Pete gets around Clairton's Bryon Clifford on his way to the basket during a non-section game last Saturday.
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Class A Section 4 is home to some of the WPIAL's most elite scorers.
St. Joseph's John Arcuri led the WPIAL through 16 games, averaging 26.8 points per game. Trinity Christian's John Wallace was averaging 22.3 points per game and Imani Christian's Troy Simons was scoring 20.1 points per game through last week.
There are no Wilkinsburg players to be found high on the individual scoring leaders list, but that's OK with the Tigers.
They can be found high atop another list, the Section 4 standings.
Wilkinsburg (9-7 overall) has used balanced scoring and a defense that has been able to frustrate elite scorers to race out to a 6-0 start in Section 4.
Just like most teams in the WPIAL, Wilkinsburg was not able to completely shut down Arcuri, Wallace or Simons, but they found a way to win the games.
Simons scored 38 against Wilkinsburg but all five Tigers' starters scored in double figures and they won, 94-83.
Arcuri scored 16 in the first half against Wilkinsburg's man-to-man defense. But Tigers coach Rueben Coleman switched things up with a zone defense and the Tigers held Arcuri to three points in the second half on their way to a 76-51 win.
Wallace scored 26 on the Tigers but sophomore point guard Eddie Risher and junior guard D'Shawn Adair each scored 17 and Wilkinsburg cruised to a 71-58 win.
"We just make sure we pay attention to these big scorers," Coleman said. "We try to get a strategy on defense that will best help us contain them. Our whole thing is to make sure that one person or two people don't decide the game but that it is all five of our players working as one."
The Tigers are doing all of this with no returning starters and a varsity roster of only eight players. On top of that senior starting forward Kyle Kregar sustained a broken right wrist and is likely out for the season, leaving Coleman with only seven healthy players.
The team got out to a rough start playing a challenging schedule. They dropped games to Class AAAA programs North Hills, Baldwin and Plum and also lost to elite teams such as Vincentian Academy, Greensburg Central Catholic, Clairton and Jeannette.
"The beginning of the season was a little rough," Coleman said. "We had a whole new team and my schedule is kind of difficult."
Things changed as the calendar turned to 2013. Wilkinsburg has won seven of eight games since Jan. 4, including a 55-41 win against Clairton in a rematch nearly one month since losing, 64-50, to Clairton at the Gateway Hoops Classic.
"The guys are starting to buy in," Coleman said. "We are starting to win the close games. We are just trying to build off that momentum now."
The Wilkinsburg backcourt consists of two sophomores, Risher and shooting guard Isaiah Pete. Adair is a swing man and senior forwards Jonathan Blue and Eric Dean also start.
Risher and Blue are leading the team in scoring, averaging about 14 points per game. Dean is the leading rebounder averaging more than 10 rebounds per game. Dean, who is 6 feet, 225 pounds, was a tight end and defensive end on the Wilkinsburg football team.
"He is a solid kid, he rebounds with just pure determination," Coleman said.
In the victory against Imani Christian Adair scored 25, Pete scored 19, Dean added 16 and Risher had 13. The scoring was also balanced against St. Joseph's with Pete (21), Dean (13), Risher (12) and Adair (10) all scoring in double figures.
Coleman gets production out of his short bench with senior forwards Kameron Germany and Donovan Skeffery seeing significant playing time.
The Tigers moved down to Class A this season. They are only two years removed from a run to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.
"There are good teams in any class," Coleman said. "We try not to get caught up in people talking about Single-A or Double-A -- if you can play, you can play and in this section there are teams that can play."
Through the first six section games it appears as if Wilkinsburg is certainly one of those teams that can play.
First Published January 31, 2013 12:00 am