Depth leads to Pine-Richland win
Handful of players step up to break game open in the fourth quarter
As its lead was slipping away in the second half, Pine-Richland needed somebody to step up and stop Highlands from fighting back into the game.
That one person never did come through.
It turns out the Rams had plenty of players to pull them through.
Logan Murray started raining 3-pointers, Colin Luellen was pulling down rebounds to eliminate second-chances and the Rams rolled to a 82-50 victory in the non-conference season opener for both teams.
“We really struggled in the third quarter,” said Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann.
“We couldn’t find anybody to go to, we couldn’t get anything to fall. The thing I like about my team is we have a lot of guys that can play.”
A strong performance from 3-point range, especially in the fourth quarter, spurred the victory.
Class 6A No. 3 Pine-Richland nailed eight 3s in the fourth quarter and went 14 for 30 in the game.
The host Rams pulled away in the end, but they were in a dogfight in the third quarter.
After building a 42-22 halftime lead, Highlands, ranked fourth in 4A, took charge in the third quarter. Literally.
Highlands absorbed four charges in the frame and cut that 20-point lead down to seven points with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter after Johnny Crise’s basket capped a 9-0 run.
The quarter ended on a high note for Pine-Richland when Kyle Polce knocked down a 3 as time expired. The rest of the team heated up in the fourth, draining a combined eight shots from behind the arc.
Murray led the Charge with four 3s to finish with 14 points.
Greg Shulkosky paced Pine-Richland with 20 points. The balanced attack had four players finish in double figures. Dan Petcash added 17 points, Murray 14 and Polce 13.
Crise did most of the work for Highlands. The 6-6 forward poured in a gamehigh 23 points. Seth Cohen chipped in 11. Crise is one of just two returning starters for Highlands.
Pine-Richland started fast with an 8-0 run to start the game. Highlands did not score until Crise shook loose in the lane and threw down a one-handed jam to kickstart the offense midway through the first quarter. He threw down a twohanded dunk on the next possession and scored the first 10 points of the game for Highlands.
“I told the guys there’s going to be some deer in the headlights thee first couple minutes,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said.
“Johnny, the kid played at the level he’s supposed to play at we expect him to bring unbelievable energy and he did tonight.”
Pine-Richland has made the WPIAL 6A finals the past three season, but gone are Phil Jurkovec, who now plays quarterback at Notre Dame, and Andrew Kristofic, a senior who will also play football at Notre Dame and opted not to play basketball this season. There’s a lack of size down low, but Ackermann still expects his players to collect rebounds just the same.
“I don’t think rebounding is all about size,” Ackermann said. “It’s about going and getting it.”
What happened Friday night is a good indicator of what the offense will look like.
“This team will be very simple,” said Ackermann. “There’s going to be a couple different guys each night. Logan Murray stepped up tonight, tomorrow might be someone totally different. That’s what makes us good is that depth.”
Colin Luellen,right, of Pine-Richland shoots against Johnny Crise of Highlands during the second half Friday at Pine-Richland High School. Pine Richland won the season-opening game, 82-50.