CHARLEROI – It is hard to call a team battle-tested only three games into the season, but that’s what the Charleroi High School boys basketball team looked like Friday night.
After starting the season 0-2, playing tough non-section games against Ringgold and Burgettstown, the Cougars looked like a seasoned team in an 83-31 rout of Bentworth.
“That’s what we were going for and it worked,” said Charleroi head coach Bill Wiltz. “We wanted to schedule tough out of conference so we are ready when section play rolls around, and I think you saw some of that pay off tonight.”
Three-point shooting was big for the Cougars (1-0, 1-2) as 10 of their 29 made field goals came from behind the arc. They shot it well from the opening tip, going on an 11-2 run to start the game behind a pair of 3-pointers from Sheldon Linnman and one from Matt Indorante. Linnman, Idorante and Jim Diaz each made a trio of triples and the Cougars opened up a big lead.
“We are a streaky shooting team,” said Wiltz. “That’s not really the style of play I want to play all the time because we could eventually shoot ourselves out of games, but they were falling tonight. If the shots are there, I wanted them taking them.”
In addition to the lights-out performance fromthree-point range, Charleroi used an aggressive trapping defense that forced 27 turnovers by Bentworth (0-1, 2-1).
“They got after us aggressively with their trap,” said Bentworth head coach Bob Kennedy. “We have a young team and we didn’t react well to the pressure. It’s something to learn from though. I’m going to make them watch this film, and hopefully they realize we can’t be this bad with the basketball in the future.”
The Cougars led 32-21 at the half, despite making only 2-of-11 free-throws. But they came out in the second half and dominated in every aspect of the game, going on a 24-4 run to open the third quarter. Charleroi outscored Bentworth 51-10 over the final two quarters.
The Cougars also did a good job slowing Bentworth’s leading scorer Chris Blackburn.
Blackburn went for 20 points in each of Bentworth’s wins to start the season, but was held scoreless in the first quarter. He scored nine straight Bentworth points in the second quarter, but had 11 before leaving the game in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury.
Nine different Cougars players found their way into the scoring column led by Brandon Bowman, who came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points. Bowman also dominated on the boards as he had double-digit rebounds.
“Brandon works as hard as anyone on this team, and it was nice to see him get rewarded,” added Wiltz. “He comes to work every day and plays hard, but sometimes he doesn’t get the opportunities to put the ball in the basket. It was a nice surprise and great to see.”
In addition to Bowman, Indorante (15), Diaz (14), Eric Johnson (13) and Linnman (11) all scored in double-figures for Charleroi.
Cody Levine scored 10 points for Bentworth.