Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The Union High boys basketball program is no stranger to the WPIAL playoffs.
Just don’t ask members of the current Scotties group about that.
Union (11-9), seeded 10th, is making its first trip to the WPIAL playoffs since 2010. Not a single member of the team competed in that postseason run. Scotties coach Dave Smialowski, though, doesn’t feel that will play much of a role for his team.
“This is the moment right here. It’s the moment the kids have been preparing for all year; it’s survival of the fittest and advancing,” Smialowski said. “If you can get to the next game, it’s down to eight teams.
“The kids are excited. I don’t think the lack of playoff experience will hurt us.”
Bentworth (18-3) is at the other end of the spectrum. The seventh-seeded Bearcats are making their sixth straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs and seventh appearance in the last 10 years. In 2008, Bentworth reached the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Serra Catholic.
“That’s an advantage for us,” Bearcats coach Bob Kennedy said. “My seniors have been in the playoffs all four years and a couple of them are three-year starters.
“It makes a big difference because they know what to expect. There’s so much that goes along with that aspect.”
The teams will open the WPIAL Class A playoffs at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at West Allegheny.
Eric Schoedel, a 6-foot senior guard, paces a balanced Bentworth attack. Schoedel is averaging 16.3 points a game.
Five players are averaging in double figures for the Bearcats.
“Schoedel can shoot the ball,” Smialowski said. “They’ve proven as a group that they can score.”
Tyler Delval, a 6-0 senior forward, is next at 12.7 points a contest. Gannon Mitchell-Walls, a 6-0 senior forward, contributes 12.5 markers a matchup.
“You’ve got to make sure you account for everybody on their team,” Smialowski said. “We’ll have to dig in and defend; play hard like we’ve done all year.”
Scott Wytovich, a 5-9 senior point guard, runs the Bentworth offensive attack. Wytovich is tossing in 10.4 points a game.
“Wytovich is a good point guard,” Smialowski said. “He’s quick and we’ll have to stay under him.
“The bulk of his points come from penetrating. We’ll have to make him beat us from the outside.”
Bentworth is averaging 71.8 points a game, compared to 55 for Union. But those numbers don’t mean much to either coach.
“We’re athletic enough that we can play that way,” Smialowski said about playing at a faster pace. “We’ll try and slow them down.
“Offensively, we still want to push the ball and get some easy ones. They like to attack the hoop. We’ll have to make them have some patience offensively.”
Said Kennedy, “Union is a very athletic team. They like to get up and down the floor and they’re tough to compete against.”
Markel Peace, a 6-2 junior forward, paces the Scotties in scoring at 14.4 points a game. Benjamin Young, a 5-11 sophomore guard, is next at 13.1 markers a contest.
“Young and Tre Major are great slashers to the hoop,” Kennedy said. “Young plays around the rim. We’ll have to be prepared for him.”
Kennedy also was impressed with Joe Salmen, a 5-11 junior guard. Salmen tosses in 11.5 markers a matchup.
“Salmen is a good outside shooter,” Kennedy said. He can spot up and he has a quick release.”
The pace will be a key in determining who advances to the next round.
“We have to control the tempo of the game and play our game,” Kennedy said. “We have five or six guys that can shoot the ball; that could cause a problem for them.”
Said Smialowski, “We have to execute offensively. They’ll take some chances defensively and we have to capitalize on those chances. Defensively, the biggest thing is containment.”
The winner battles the survivor of the North Catholic-Carmichaels matchup on Feb. 24 at a time and site to be announced.