Class AAAA boys basketball preview: After 1st playoff win since 2003, Hempfield boys hope to advance in postseason
Kason Harrell remembers the good times and bad times of the 2013-14 basketball season.
The good times included a 14-0 record in Section 1, a 21-3 overall mark and being part of Hempfield’s first playoff win since 2003.
But as fun as the victory against Mt. Lebanon was, the 82-59 loss to North Allegheny in the next round was not.
“It was really disappointing, first of all to lose and second of all to get blown out like that,” Harrell said. “As I walked off the court and I was talking to the junior teammates, I told them I never want to feel that feeling again.
“It was great to finally get past that first step. It probably shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Harrell, who averaged 23.4 points last season, has signed a letter of intent to play at Division I IPFW.
Now the 6-foot-3 senior guard can focus on leading Hempfield to another section title and a deeper run in the playoffs. To do that, 6-8 senior Tony Pilato and 6-5 Logan Swan, coach Bill Swan’s son, have to become bigger scoring threats.
Swan returns as Hempfield’s coach after a five-year absence. He replaced Mark Marino, who lasted one season after replacing Jim Nesser, who originally replaced Swan.
“Everybody’s attention will be on Kason,” Coach Swan said. “We have two very good players in Tony and Logan. We’re working with Tony to improve his game. And we’re working with Logan trying to make him an offensive threat. The better Logan and Tony are, the better Kason will be.”
He likes the improvement of senior Zach Irwin and the play of juniors Chris Clayton and Dante Luther already. Two potential starters — Jay Flock and Mitch Golden — are sidelined with injuries.
“If we can find three or four guys to play hard and play their roles, we’ll be OK,” Swan said. “We’ll find them.”
Swan’s past teams found success through playing good defense. That approach won’t change.
“The greatest compliment I ever received was from former Latrobe coach Ray Zsolcsak,” Swan said. “He said, ‘You’re the closest team I’ve seen that played like we used to.’ That means the world to me.
“If you play hard on the defensive end, I think you’ll always have a chance.”
Harrell agreed: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. We’re going to need a lot of young guys to step up. They’re getting a lot better in practice, and it’s going to take heart.”