North Xtra: Avonworth looking forward to playoffs
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No one can say Avonworth High School's boys basketball season has been dull.
A number of the WPIAL Class AA team's games have been decided in the last quarter with four of the Antelopes' 13 victories won by nine or fewer points, including a one-point thriller against Chartiers-Houston, 48-47, and three-point wins against Freedom, 63-60, and Sto-Rox, 45-42.
The Antelopes (13-9, 8-4) concluded their regular season with a 65-52 non-section victory against Shady Side Academy Monday and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs by finishing third in Class AA Section 6.
The Antelopes were seeded 13th in the 26-team field for the Class AA tournament. They will play Aliquippa at noon Saturday at North Allegheny.
Dan Bradley, in his fourth season as the Avonworth coach, was hoping at one point this season that his squad would bring home the first boys section title since 1974, but that didn't happen. But Bradley is pleased that his team finished the season by winning nine of its final 12 games.
Two of the hiccups in that span were losses to neighboring rivals Quaker Valley, 63-43, and Northgate, 78-54.
"We've been giving up about 47 points a game [except for those two losses]," Bradley said.
"We started off OK, and they didn't change a lot of what they were doing [from the first time we played them]," said Bradley, a 42-year-old Ohio Township resident. "Initially, we didn't change what we were doing, but we didn't handle the ball well.
"When you turn [the ball] over in the midcourt area, they will turn it into points. We handled the pressure from Sto-Rox, Union and Quaker Valley the first time we played them. We just didn't do a good job [against the Quakers]."
Bradley hopes the unexpectedly one-sided loss is just a blip in the Antelopes' postseason plans.
"Up until [the loss to Quaker Valley on Jan. 29], we were playing excellent basketball, and that included the two-point loss to Quaker Valley the first time we played them," Bradley said. "That was a solid game, and we had an opportunity to win it. We just didn't make the most of our opportunities.
"I'd like to think we play a style of basketball that prepares us for the playoffs," he added. "We have a deep bench. We have some athletic guys and some big guys, and we have a couple of guys who can score. I think that we'll be in most games that we play."
Avonworth has plenty of balance, too.
Ryan Pearson, a two-year captain and 5-foot-8 senior shooting guard from Ben Avon, is averaging 13.5 points per game. Eric Gallupe, a 6-1 junior forward from Ohio Township, is the team's next-leading scorer at 11.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Two more Ohio Township juniors, Dalton Day and Jesse Zubik, are averaging about nine points a game. Day had nailed 28 3-point field goals through 15 games.
Pearson spent his first two years at Perry Traditional Academy of the City League. He's enjoying life at Avonworth and playing against Class AA competition.
"I would have to say [the biggest difference is] the pace of the game," Pearson said. "The game's faster in the City League. There aren't many offensive sets. It's kind of like street ball [in the City League]. It's sad to say, but [that's what] it is.
"In Class AA, you have a set offense, and I love running a set offense, getting a good play and getting a good shot up," he added. "We don't have to rely on one person getting the job done and scoring all the buckets. Having set plays in a half-court offense and set defenses is a good thing to have."
Also facing adjustments is Bradley, who spent his autumn leading the Sto-Rox football team to the WPIAL Class A championship game at Heinz Field, where the Vikings eventually fell, 58-21, to state champion Clairton.
Some might view Bradley's coaching life as hectic, but he doesn't find his routine unusual.
"The title 'head coach' puts you in the limelight a little bit more," he said. "But there are other coaches out there who coach at different schools who are assistant coaches in football and are a varsity basketball coach. You have to be organized and make some phone calls, but your time is definitely divided."
No more so than in November when Bradley was working with both teams simultaneously.
"It was very hectic," he said. "When there is a will, there is a way, and it works out. I like to coach that way. If you have a strong will, you can make it happen.
"For a few weeks, I was going from football practice at Sto-Rox to my son's football practice on Ohio River Boulevard, and then going to open gym at Avonworth or playing in a fall league. I was going from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.," Bradley said.
All that was taking place while he was working as a program administrator for an alternative education company in Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties.
"We have one school in Washington, Pa., and one school in Greene County, and we have school-based programs in various school districts in Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties," he said.
"I drive a lot, and I'm on the phone all day."
First Published February 14, 2013 12:00 am