North Allegheny boys put focus on success in section play
Anthony Hattrup doesn’t expect the North Allegheny boys basketball team to overlook anyone on the schedule.
With the number of Class 6A schools in the WPIAL slipping due to realignment — the count is down from 21 last season to 18 — making the playoffs will require finishing in the top four of a six-team section.
Thanks to a slow start last season, North Allegheny recorded an 8-14 record and found itself on the outside looking in.
“I think we learned that we can’t take section games lightly,” Hattrup said. “Especially teams we know we should beat. We have to take every game seriously.”
The Tigers open the season Dec. 7 against old section rival Shaler at the Penn-Trafford tournament. Returning to the postseason will require some adjusting for North Allegheny.
Offensively, the Tigers saw their top three leading scorers depart. Mike Iuzillino, who averaged 7.4 points per game in 19 appearances last season, is North Allegheny’s leading returning scorer.
Hattrup also contributed 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest to earn an honorable mention selection to the all-section team.
What third-year North Allegheny coach Keith Noftz believes will be better about this team is how they shoot the ball. The Tigers shot 32.9 percent from the 3-point line and 41 percent from the field last season.
“I like my group,” Noftz said. “We play well together, and I think it’s going to make a huge difference in our team. This is the best shooting team I’ve had. They play well together. We have guards who can knock down shots consistently.”
With its roster makeup, North Allegheny wants to push the pace. Sure, the Tigers do have some size. Six-foot-6 senior forward Steven Humphries, 6-5 Hattrup and 6-4 sophomore forward Khalil Dinkins are expected to contribute on the glass.
But this team may be best served by being on the move.
“What we do at practice is run a lot and playing at practice the way we want to play in games,” Hattrup said. “When games start, we want to be ready to play at that pace.”
Contending for a section crown will mean holding off a Butler team led by Division I recruit Ethan Morton and an always stout Pine-Richland program.
With those teams looming in the regular season, North Allegheny won’t have to wait long for a litmus test.
“We had a good offseason,” Noftz said. “I told those guys the offseason means nothing now. The lights are on, let’s see who comes out big. The guys are motivated because I don’t think they want to go through another year like they did last year.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.