Last year, Union High used its sharpshooting and playmaking ability to play its way all the way to the WPIAL Class 1A title game.
This year, the Scotties started the year 7-0 using that same style and were riding high into the Christmas break after a big win against Vincentian Academy. Then Union, once ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in their classification, fell to Wilmington and stumbled at times, finishing the season at 16-6.
Back in the district playoffs, the young Scotties are hoping to make another long playoff run. The journey started on Friday against Clairton. Union was down three at halftime before pulling away for a 76-69 win. Seth Pinkerton, the team’s lone senior and a son of Lori and Keith Pinkerton, made sure it wasn’t a quick postseason exit, pouring in a game-high 26 points.
“He was getting to the hole,” Union coach Mark Stanley said. “Against teams like Clairton, that’s not easy to do. He was making clear cut moves to get there and finishing. When he’s finishing like that, he’s hard to stop, like a runaway freight train. He gets in transition, scores in transition and then in the halfcourt, he’ll break you down. When he’s rolling like that, that just puts us on the next level.”
For his efforts last week, Pinkerton is the Lawrence County High School Athlete of the Week sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff. On the year, Pinkerton is averaging 15.8 points per game.
“It was rough,” Pinkerton said. “It probably wasn’t the prettiest game, but we won.”
Despite being the only senior on the team, the Scotties aren’t scarce for big-game experience. Juniors Nate Meeks and Mike Flowers are returning lettermen and played big roles last year, though everyone’s role on the team has changed. Pinkerton, a team captain, is asked to provide more scoring on this team rather than just being a defensive, transition-scoring role player as he was on last year’s team that had guard Tre Charles to lean on offensively.
“He’s got more on his plate as far as that goes,” Stanley said. “Last year, we were senior-oriented, but this year he’s the only senior. His role is he’s the elder statesman. We need things to get done and we’re looking for him. He’s been able to step up and answer the bell.”
Evan Pinkerton, Seth’s older brother by a year, graduated from last year’s team but is still available to give some pointers in the only way brothers can.
“We talk. He criticizes everything I do,” Evan Pinkerton said. “We go through film every once in awhile going through different things I should have done and different passes I should have made.”
The Scotties make their return to the court tomorrow against Nazareth Prep in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Sewickley Academy. It’s a team the Scotties are familiar with — the school formerly known as Holy Family is a Section 1 rival. On a small court at Nazareth Prep, Union fell, 76-61. Things didn’t get much better on their home floor as Nazareth Prep routed the Scotties, 74-41. Forward Will Taylor scored 33 and 20 points in those two meetings, providing a matchup problem for the guard-oriented Scotties.
“They’re good,” Stanley said. “We have to take care of the basketball and Seth is going to be a big part of that. They are gearing up for him and sagging guys into the middle. Early on, he might have to look for some kick-outs to open it up, but if we can do that and open up, that could get some space for him.”
According to Pinkerton, the senior class president and National Honor Society vice president with a 3.9 GPA, it’s a matter of trying some new defenses, but most importantly, hitting shots.
“I think we have a good chance against Nazareth this time,” Pinkerton said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times just because we know what each other is going to do. I think if our team gets hot — myself, Michael and especially Nate — if we start shooting well, we can beat anybody.”
Since playing Friday, the Scotties will have had almost a full week of prep and practice time. The main focus for Union is staying injury-free. Another focus is limiting turnovers and second-chance opportunities for Nazareth Prep.
“If we do that, we’ll have a chance,” Stanley said. “They have a lot going for them. It’s a challenge for us and we’re happy to be there.”