Depth leads to Pine-Richland win

Hand­ful of play­ers step up to break game open in the fourth quar­ter

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - High School Basketball - By Ed­die Phillipps

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.”

Charles LeClaire/For the Post-Gazette

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.

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