By Drew Karpen
It seems like an eternity since the Saegertown boys team season-opening loss to Fairview. The Panthers lost 57-51 to the Tigers in the Fairview Tip off tournament on Dec. 7.
“They hit some threes and ended up beating us,” Saegertown head coach Greg Molnar said. “They didn’t have their two best players and Shane Rigby didn’t play for us.”
Since then, the Panthers (18-4) went on a 16-game winning streak — which they are currently on — and became Region 3 champions.
Although coach Molnar is enjoying the win streak, he doesn’t believe it will give his team any extra momentum over Fairview.
“It is like a brand new season,” Molnar said. “Right now everybody is 0-0. The momentum thing I don’t buy into a whole lot. We were playing teams we could compete with. I don’t put a lot of importance on it.”
All season long the Panthers have shown they have a balanced offense with three players averaging in double figures.
Dustin Pavlik leads the team 13.5 points per game. Rigby is right behind him with 12.3 and Austin Scere has 10.7. Jeff Mattocks is just below double figures with 9.0 points per game and is one point shy of 200 for the season.
Most of Saegertown’s success comes from working the ball down in the post, and coach Molnar says it is no secret that will be the game plan tonight.
“We are going inside,” Molnar said. “We have done that all year long. When we play seriously I don’t allow the kids to take 3-point shots. Rigby, Pavlik, Mattocks and Scere should score big if we go inside.”
On the other end, Molnar expects the Tigers to do exactly what they did in the first meeting — drive and pass out to the perimeter.
“I know exactly what Fairview is going to do,” Molnar said. “They are going to drive down the lane and if we stop the drive they are going to pass out for the 3. It comes down to if they hit the threes and what their guards are doing. The matchup is going to be Fairview’s guards against our big men. Who is going to play better?”
More often than not, every team is going to have a weakness. The Panthers kryptonite has been their below-average performance at the free-throw line. And if they plan to take the ball inside during tonight’s game, they should expect to be shooting a fair share of foul shots.
As a team, the Panthers are shooting 54 percent from the charity stripe with four of their top seven shooters converting at a clip of 59 percent or less.
“There is going to come a time where we have to step up at the foul line and keep the pressure on Fairview or if we get beyond Fairview,” Molnar said. “It will come back to bite us if we don’t convert them.”
Rockets to face Sailors in quarterfinals
All season long the Titusville boys basketball team went under the radar, posting a 17-5 record and finishing third in Region 4. The Rockets won’t be able to sneak their way by anymore once the District 10 Class AA playoffs begin tonight. The Rockets first test — the Lakeview Sailors tonight at Farrell High School at 6:30 p.m.
Lakeview (19-3) has had quite the historic season with both Casey Greggs and Dalton Boggs eclipsing the 1,000 point plateau in their career and head coach Gary Burke picking up his 200th career win on Feb. 12 — the same night Boggs got his 1,000th point.
However, the Sailors know this isn’t going to be a walk in the park either.
“They’re just a good basketball team,” Burke said of Titusville. “They have four real nice inside post players that are really physical and strong and three guards who can handle the ball well and can shoot it. We definitely have our work cut out in this first round game. Winner goes on. Loser goes home. Heck of a challenge for the first round of the District 10 playoffs.”
For the Rockets, they have a sense of what to expect from the Sailors.
“We feel like we have a sense of some of their offensive tendencies,” Titusville head coach Scott Davie said. “We have been straight man-to-man defense all season and we aren’t going to stray away from that. We need to come out and work hard on the defensive end.”
On the offensive end, the Rockets have been successful all season with their uptempo offense, averaging 60.4 points per game. The Rockets also plan to keep their balanced attack.
“We try to be as balanced as possible,” Davie said. “We like to get out and run and create turnovers.”
Titusville has three players scoring in double figures with Corey Ciccarelli leading the pack with 12.5 points per game. Tyler Copeland is right behind him with 12.4 and Jayce Corklin has 11.2.
One of the keys for the Lakeview in slowing down Titusville’s offense is the defensive effort by Zach Van Dusen.
“He’s our go-to-guy on the defensive end of the floor,” Burke said. “He plays a big role in what we do defensively. He is a fantastic role player. He worked his butt off and will hopefully lead through a strong defensive effort (today).”
With all the hype surrounding the playoffs, coach Davie made sure this week seemed as normal as possible for his team. After a practice on Monday, the Rockets played a scrimmage against Cochran-ton on Tuesday — which would be the day for a typical game — before finishing off the week with practices on Wednesday and yesterday.
“It was a good tune up for us,” Davie said. “And we went pretty hard during practice yesterday like we usually do. It was a very spirited practice.”