Record-low temperatures in Western Pennsylvania forced the postponement and rescheduling of numerous WPIAL basketball games. The constant changes meant teams missed precious practice time and resulted in coaches having to count on their players to reserve extra time for film study.
For Carmichaels head coach Don Williams, the adjustments have not been difficult. The Mikes (5-1, 13-2) have a roster featuring seven seniors, including one of the area’s top talents in Brandon Lawless. The group is constantly watching film and making changes to avoid repeating last season’s first-round playoff exit.
“One good thing about the group I have is they are experienced, and they are mostly seniors,” Williams said. “By now, they should know exactly what is going on and shouldn’t let the schedule jumping bother them. The only thing is they have to go out and execute. It’s a total team effort. Everyone has their job to do and everyone has been doing it. Fortunately, I have a group that is willing to watch film and do the little things.”
Carmichaels was scheduled to play Clairton Wednesday night, but the school district canceled classes, again delaying a pivotal Section 3-A matchup. Williams gathered his team for practice Monday to prepare for the Bears, who have also been playing a waiting game with their schedule.
Clairton has had seven of its last eight games postponed because of inclement weather, and the two teams finally played Thursday night in a much anticipated matchup. While the Mikes rely on the scoring output of Lawless, it is another senior who is a critical component to a defense that has only allowed 48.2 points per game – which ranks second in Class A.
Ty Aeschbacher’s responsibility is to cover the opposing team’s top offensive threat. Standing 6-2, the senior forward has been a force in the lane and, Williams says, is the most overlooked player on the Mikes’ roster thanks to his dedication to film study and athleticism.
“One thing I have to say about Aeschbacher is that he draws the top offensive player from every opponent, and he does a tremendous job playing defense,” Williams said. “That is only something coaches would notice or fans that are very knowledgeable. I can’t say enough about how well he has done against the other team’s top offensive player.”
The Mikes’ lone loss in section play came against Monessen Jan. 14 and barring any more postponements, Carmichaels will have its chance at revenge when it travels to the Greyhounds’ gymnasium Tuesday.
“Monessen is a handful,” Williams said. “They run a lot of people at you. Our group is one year physically more mature, and they know this is their last season of playing high school basketball. That can make for a dedicated approach.”
Waynesburg junior Hannah Gibbons, who batted .600 with 25 RBI as a third baseman last season on the softball team, accepted an offer from the University of Pennsylvania to continue her playing career.
Led by head coach Leslie King, Penn was the Ivy League champion last year. Gibbons, a two-year all-section selection, holds a 4.0 grade-point average and plays for the Pittsburgh Power travel softball team. The Raiders (6-6, 9-9) missed the playoffs last season, but Gibbons will again be a pivotal part of Waynesburg’s team this season.
“She’d stay on the field all night hitting if she could,” Waynesburg head coach Jim Armstrong said. “She comes down there, and she’ll keep hitting. That was her goal to play college basketball. She plays some tough softball. I think she has a bright future in softball. I’m really proud to have her on my team.”
The Canon-McMillan basketball boosters dedicated Monday’s boys basketball game against Upper St. Clair to raising money for the family of Luke Blanock, who is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Blanock, a junior at Canon-McMillan, was expected to start for the Big Macs this season before receiving the diagnosis. He currently is undergoing rounds of chemotherapy for a localized form of the cancer and with a packed gymnasium showing support, the event was a success. Blanock was released earlier in the day from his latest treatment and an unlikely source donated money to the cause.
The Upper St. Clair basketball boosters donated $500 to #LukeStrong Night and a total of $1,700 was raised from direct donations, concessions and 50/50 raffle. The officials from the game – Todd Gallupe, Tom Drennan and Mark Schmidt – donated their game checks to the Blanock family.