Knoch grateful for second chance
The Knoch boys basketball team is thankful for second chances.
The Knights, eliminated in the second round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, will take on City League champion Perry Traditional Academy (19-7) in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Taylor-Allderdice High School.
“One thing about playing in the WPIAL is you get a second chance, and our team is glad to have that,” Knoch coach Les Shoop said.
Knoch (21-3), enjoying one of its best seasons ever, fell to Hopewell, 49-40, in the quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye.
The Knights did come away with some big accomplishments, however, as they won their first section title since 1989 and received their first berth in the PIAA playoffs since 1997.
Perry has won six games in a row and 11 out of 12, including a 63-54 victory over Peabody in the City League championship at the Fitzgerald Field House.
The Commodores rely heavily on their speed because they lack substantial height.
“Perry hits the boards hard and runs the floor well,” Shoop said.
Knoch prepared for Perry’s quickness by scrimmaging Wilkinsburg on Tuesday. Shoop has had his players practicing every day to ready themselves for the Commodores.
Perry has three scorers that average in double figures — junior Dwayne Pettus, and seniors Mike Reid and Tony Houghton.
Pettus, a 6-2 forward, leads the way.
“He’s our No. 1 player and our leading scorer,” Perry coach Chuck Franklin said.
Shoop said that Pettus, who scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the City League championship, will be Knoch’s defensive focus.
“He’s a very good scorer and the key to their team,” Shoop said.
Franklin is no stranger to Knoch. Five years ago, Shoop’s team was a regular on Perry’s schedule.
“He (Shoop) does a good job with his players,” Franklin said. “They all understand their roles, even the players coming off the bench.”
Matt Lower, a 6-1 junior guard, led Knoch by averaging 12 points a game during the regular season. Mark Rupert, a 6-3 senior forward, and Matt Lower connected on 43 3-pointers each.
“They (Knoch) have their shooters and will challenge you man-to-man,” Franklin said.
Knoch averaged closed to 65 points a game this season and held its opponents to under 50 points in all but eight games.
Even in its losses, Knoch played tough defense. They allowed 55 points to Beaver, 48 to Hampton and 49 to Hopewell in their only setbacks this year.
“Our defense has been our stable point the whole year,” Shoop said. “The games we lost were because we didn’t shoot the ball well.”