CANONSBURG – The Wash High boys basketball team feels slighted.
With many predicting the Prexies to flutter without the Observer-Reporter’s 2012-13 Player of the Year Josh Wise, who graduated after averaging 21.9 points per game, the group of returning players is out to prove everyone wrong.
Wash High started the season doing just that. The Prexies dominated defensively and took advantage of Trinity mistakes as they defeated the Hillers, 74-55, in the opening game of the Canon-McMillan tip-off tournament.
“We heard everyone talking about how we lost everybody, but we know that we have a lot of guys coming back who logged plenty of playing time last season,” sophomore guard Nate Swart said. “We use it as motivation.”
The Prexies held a 36-21 lead at halftime after an impressive run to cap the second quarter, but Trinity showed relentless play in the beginning of the third quarter with senior Avery King leading the way.
King’s aggressive play in the post drew countless fouls against the Prexies and the big man capitalized, drawing the Hillers to within 11 points with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter. King finished with a game-high 29 points while making 13 of 16 free throws.
Wash High answered with their second impressive run of the game. Behind a solid transition game and strong rebounding, the Prexies finished the third quarter on a 15-2 run. Swart accounted for six of the 15 points and finished the game with 19.
“It’s such a rivalry game, and it’s always emotional,” Wash High head coach Mark Gaither said. “Any time you get to open the season with a victory against a cross-town rival, it’s a good thing. We weren’t sure what to expect from them, but I was pleased with our effort and we did a great job rebounding.”
The Prexies used the fourth quarter to test a deep bench that Gaither calls one of their strengths. Junior guard Jon Spina left the game with less than a minute into the fourth quarter after he was called for a technical foul. Senior Quorteze Levy fouled out just three minutes later, allowing Wash High to give quality minutes to younger players in a rivalry setting.
Despite the uneven outcome, Trinity was able to get a feel for a team with seven sophomores. Hillers first-year head coach Tim Tessmer, whose team did a nice job of running its zone defense in the first quarter, was not pleased with the performance but knows the best is yet to come for the young team.
“The part I love is that we going out there with a very inexperienced team and the things we struggled with tonight – rebounding, turnovers and sloppy play – we can clean those up,” Tessmer said. “We will be a much better basketball team come January.”
With the Prexies leading 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, Wash High cleaned up their play on the offensive end and took advantage of Trinity turnovers. The Prexies went on a 14-2 run in the opening five minutes of the second quarter. With the Hillers seeing the game slipping out of hand, King stormed down the court, grabbed a rebound off an errant shot and put it away.
The senior forward followed the impressive effort 20 seconds later with a three-pointer from the corner. The Hillers went on a 5-0 run, but the Prexies finished the first half on a strong note. Swart’s jumper from inside the lane was followed by a steal. Junior forward DeQuay Isbell answered with a dunk and Swart added two free throws as Wash High went into the second half leading 36-21.
The standout for the Prexies in the opening half was senior guard Dupree Jenkins, who finished with 12 points and recorded three steals in the first half.
“If we play like this night in and night out, we can go a long way,” Jenkins said.
Wash High will play Canon-McMillan Saturday at 8 p.m. to cap the tournament, while Trinity plays Burgettstown at 6:30 p.m.
Despite a tumultuous week, Canon-McMillan’s young team responded in the Big Macs’ season-opener.
After losing eight seniors and four starters from last year’s 11-12 team that made the playoffs, Canon-McMillan head coach Rick Bell was forced to find a new rotation of players on a team with only two seniors.
Playing without junior guard Luke Bradock and sophomore forward Jordan Smith, Canon-McMillan’s offense sparked a 22-0 run to start the game and held off the Blue Devils as the Big Macs defeated Burgettstown, 70-27.
“I was really excited about the energy our team started with,” Bell said. “Burgettstown is down a little bit because of the players they lost but sometimes, you may have a tendency to take teams lightly.”
The Big Macs took advantage of turnovers by the Blue Devils as Sam Bohn, Alex Hammers and Costa Karanikos each had 12 points in the first half. Canon-McMillan used its deep bench to coast to the win. For the majority of the second-half, Bell used a group of underclassmen. Hammers finished with 17 points.