Connellsville boys open playoffs against Pine-Richland
For the Connellsville boys basketball team, the wait is almost over.
One week ago, the Falcons learned they would be playing Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. And with the game just a day away, the Falcons are certainly ready to get back on the court.
“I wish we could have played Saturday,” Connellsville senior John Leonard said.
Leonard, who is Connellsville’s leading scorer with 21.4 points per game, did point out that the time off has been beneficial.
“I think it’s been good because it has given us time to recuperate,” Leonard said.
The Falcons, champions of Section 1-AAAA, have not played a game since Feb. 12, but coach Dan Bosnic believes the time between games has been used wisely.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been on the court for a game, so we just wanted to practice and work as hard as we can to try to get better,” Bosnic said. “That was our goal, and I think we were able to do that.”
The time between games has been lengthy for the Falcons, but it certainly doesn’t compare to the length of time between playoff appearances. Connellsville last competed in the WPIAL playoffs in the 2005-06 season.
Aside from Geibel transfers Paul Martin and Adam Siecinski, this will be the first playoff game for all of the players on this year’s team. Still, Bosnic noted that his players are no stranger to playing in big games.
“We wanted to win the section championship outright,” Bosnic said. “We won against Laurel Highlands on our senior night and then won at Kiski with the opportunity to win it outright, so we feel like we’ve been in some must-win games and we hope that will help us.”
While the Falcons may lack playoff experience, their opponent is also green when it comes to the postseason. Pine-Richland, the third-place team from Section 3-AAAA, is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Rams finished the regular season with a four-game winning streak. Junior guard Andy Andrle leads Pine-Richland by averaging a little more than 16 points per game.
“They are an athletic group,” Bosnic said. “They’re versatile, and they’re not scared to shoot the ball. They have size like Penn-Trafford, but they play more like Latrobe because they move around constantly. We want to make sure we are the more physical team, and hopefully we’ll be successful.”
The Falcons concluded the schedule with a six-game win streak. But Bosnic isn’t worried about the team being satisfied with just a great regular season.
“The group of seniors (Tre’ Coles, Trey Vanek, Matt White, Jihad McCargo, Ed McKlveen and Leonard) hasn’t had much success in the past, and I feel like they are hungry for more. This is a good group, and they want to do good things for each other.”
Martin, a junior starting forward, acknowledged that the players on this year’s team have formed a strong bond.
“We’re definitely a team and we play for each other,” Martin said. “We all know that we all want to win.”
Despite winning a section title, Connellsville enters the tournament as the seventh seed. Bosnic isn’t paying too much attention to seedings.
“I want them to realize that we have as good of an opportunity to win it as anybody,” Bosnic said. “We’re four wins away from a WPIAL championship. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish. We’re focused on one game at a time, and the first one is a huge one.”
WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs
Connellsville (19-2) vs. Pine-Richland (13-6) at Hempfield, 8 p.m.