CANONSBURG – With the beginning of each new season, there’s bound to be some rust as players need time to get comfortable with new teammates or new coaching systems or just need to get accustomed again to official games.
Such was the case with the Washington High School boys basketball team. It took them all of about two and a half minutes to get into typical lockdown-defense mode.
Washington held Saltsburg to just three field goals in the first half and cruised to a 59-35 victory Friday on the first day of the EQT Energy Classic at Canon-McMillan to open the 2012-13 season.
The Prexies play Pikeville, Ky., in the semifinals today at 4 p.m.
“It’s always good to get that first win,” said Washington guard Josh Wise. “We took care of business.”
Wise outscored the Trojans by himself in the first half, as his 14 points guided Wash High to a 30-10 lead. The Prexies actually trailed, 5-2, after two free throws by Saltsburg’s Tyler Frassenei with 5:40 to play in the opening quarter.
That would be the last time Saltsburg held the lead. In fact, the Trojans did not score again until 4:07 remained in the second quarter. During that time, the Prexies went on a 20-0 run. Wise scored half of those 20 points.
Washington’s defense pestered Saltsburg into eight turnovers and a series of bad shots in the first half, and Jaylin Kelly and Jordan Drew consistently out-muscled Saltsburg’s forwards to clean up the glass.
“We gave up a lot of shot attempts, but we were fortunate to give up just one shot and then rebound,” said Prexies coach Mark Gaither. “We actually got bailed out a lot because of our athleticism. We work on controlling the boards and getting out and running.”
Wise added, “We used our speed, and we communicated. That’s the key to any defense, is communication.”
The Prexies’ lead continued to grow, and Gaither began substituting more and more. As a result, Wise finished with only 16 points and did not play in the fourth quarter. He also turned into a bit of a playmaker, dishing out a couple of assists to help Billy Edwards record 12 points for the game.
Still, Wise did not seem to miss much of a beat after having a prolonged football season.
“I liked football, but you don’t have time to dwell on it,” said Wise. “It was right to basketball, and I didn’t want to take anything away from my teammates. So I devoted myself to it, like we all did, and we set our goal for the A.J. Palumbo Center.”
What left Gaither unhappy was the play of his substitutes, who were matched up with Saltsburg’s starters.
“We really take pride in our defense, and that’s what we hang our hat on,” said Gaither. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there. If we want to win in our section, we’re going to have to become better defensively. But it’s still early. It’s only the first game.”
No other Prexies player scored in double figures, but 11 different players scored for Washington. Ian Satler led the Trojans with 13 points. Mitchel Yard grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds in the losing effort for Saltsburg.