Archive

Defending champion Pine-Richland boys up for challenge in 6A | TribLIVE.com
News

Defending champion Pine-Richland boys up for challenge in 6A

PCJPRboysPhilJurkovec120116
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland's Phil Jurkovec practices Nov. 22, 2016, at Pine-Richland.
PCJPRboysGrantCarrigan120116
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland's Grant Carrigan practices Nov. 22, 2016, at Pine-Richland.
PCJPRboysAndrewPetcash120116
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland's Andrew Petcash practices Nov. 22, 2016, at Pine-Richland.
PCJPRboyscoachJeffAckerman120116
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackerman leads practice Nov. 22, 2016, at Pine-Richland.
PCJPRboysNolanRauschPhilJurkovec120116
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Pine-Richland's Nolan Rausch (left) and Phil Jurkovec practice Nov. 22, 2016, at Pine-Richland.

It was a tale of two seasons for the Pine-Richland boys basketball last year.

In the team’s first three weeks, it struggled to break .500 with a 3-4 record. Then, the Rams went through a metamorphosis, winning 11 straight, 18 of 21 and eventually, their first WPIAL Class AAAA championship.

While coach Jeff Ackermann wouldn’t mind sticking to that same script, he is aware another slow start could spell an early doom for his team in a competitive Class 6A this season.

So, the defending WPIAL champs are putting themselves through the wringer with their nonsection schedule, Pine-Richland will take on three teams that won section championships last season: Latrobe, Steel Valley and Penn Hills. Combined, the seven nonsection foes the Rams will face accrued a 112-62 record last year.

“I think this is a really challenging schedule that we’re playing in. With the 3-4 start last year, I didn’t really think that we were playing at the level we were capable of playing,” Ackermann said.

“Our goal this year is to start faster. For us, we’re better off being challenged than not being challenged.

“This group, we have guys that have won championships. These guys are better off playing against better teams.”

One Pine-Richland player who proved to be up for a challenge over and over through the past few seasons is senior captain Andrew Petcash. The team’s point guard averaged 22 points on 67 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range.

So what could the Rams primary ball-handler do to improve his game? Well, growing another inch couldn’t hurt.

“He’s gotten bigger. He’s grown taller and he’s gotten stronger. He’s filled out now, and he’s more explosive. Andrew’s about 6-4 now, he can dunk the ball and there’s just a lot more physically that he can do now that he couldn’t last year,” Ackermann said.

“Even last year, he had a great year, but he’s definitely a better player then he was last year.”

Petcash is weighing a handful of opportunities to play Division I basketball next year.

At one of the forward positions, Phil Jurkovec is sure to see a substantial amount of playing time after scoring 15 points per game and grabbing 12 rebounds per contest last year.

The junior has recovered from the thumb injury that ended his football season and has already been hitting the hardwood.

Another starter for Pine-Richland figures to be sophomore Andrew Kristofic. Kristofic, who started on the offensive line this year, has shot up from 6-5 to 6-6½ and will provide the Rams with size down low.

The rest of Ackermann’s lineup will be filled by a rotation of players led by team co-captain Evan Luellen.

The Rams coach calls the senior guard one of the best defenders on his team. After Luellen, Nolan Rausch, Sean Colosimo, Dan Petcash and soccer standout Greg Shulkosky will provide the team with depth and outside shooting. Pitt football recruit Grant Carrigan, who stands 6-7, also will get a shot to contribute once healthy.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.