Kiski Area boys ready for encore
Kiski Area put together a season for the scrapbooks last winter, outsmarting the WPIAL seeding committee and rekindling basketball excitement from Avonmore to North Vandergrift, from Parks to Mamont.
The Cavaliers rode a wave of momentum all the way to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals before explosive New Castle (31-0) beat them by 54.
Kiski Area finished 17-7 after getting a No. 13 seed, stretching their season into March with a PIAA playoff appearance, their first since 2004.
While the memories remain strong, the current team is ready to make its own statement.
“We set the bar high every year,” Cavaliers coach Joey Tutchstone said. “These guys are ready to rewrite our own history. They don’t want to live in the past, and they’re not satisfied.”
Reigning Alle-Kiski Valley Player of the Year Mike Simmons returns for his senior season. The rangy 6-foot-2 guard averaged 20.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals last season. He needs 278 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
“We’re counting on Mike being Mike,” Tutchstone said. “We know what he can do.”
Simmons will play more of the shooting guard position with sophomore Justice Evans taking over at point guard. Another key returnee is 6-1 junior guard Lincoln Clayton, a starter last season.
Graduates Ryan Sciullo and Joey Brungo were staples in the backcourt, but Evans appears ready to step in.
“It’s tough to stay in front of (Evans),” Tutchstone said. “He brings an unselfish attitude and is becoming a better shooter.”
While size is a concern — the tallest player is barely 6-3 — the Cavaliers should have an abundance of quick guards, adding to their depth and athleticism. Tutchstone expects to use nine players.
“We want to get out and pressure teams and run,” Tutchstone said. “But we also want to show the ability to play half-court defense.”
While the remainder of the starting rotation has yet to be determined, Tutchstone is all in favor of tryouts.
“I want them to show me they want to start,” the coach said. “It’s a nice committee; a nice problem to have.”
Senior Tre Talton, a 5-9 guard, gave the team a spark as the sixth man last year, particularly in the playoffs.
Junior DeShawon Bracy and sophomore Jonathan Bracy, both 6-2, are expected to contribute, along with sophomore forward Noah Clayton, senior guard Matt Bisceglia and junior 6-2 forward Nathan Blankenbicker.
Bisceglia is a soccer standout. Tutchstone said Blankenbicker “does the little things” such as getting “hustle points and rebounds.”
“Overall, we have a nice mixture of young and old,” Tutchstone said. “We have three seniors we think we can utilize well and a bunch of sophomores and juniors.”
The schedule greets Kiski Area like a bucket of ice water. After the Mt. Lebanon Tournament, the Cavaliers play Plum, Hempfield and Penn-Trafford in a 12-day span.
Tutchstone thinks Hempfield and Penn-Trafford are contenders in Section 1-AAAA.
Kittanning and Seton-La Salle are new to the nonsection slate.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected].