In his first year as coach of the Steel Valley boys basketball team, Drew Schifino has great expectations for the Ironmen.
“We have major things like quickness and height,” said Schifino, 33, who left Waynesburg after one season (6-16) as the Raiders’ head coach. “I think we’ll win the section and (seriously) contend for the WPIAL title.”
Steel Valley will open the season Dec. 5-6 at the Brentwood tournament. Its first Section 4-AAA game will be the following week at Laurel Highlands.
Senior captain Dom Keyes is a big reason for Schifino’s optimism.
A 6-foot-7 power forward, Keyes led the Ironmen with 15 points and 13 rebounds a game last year.
“We’ll shoot and run the floor a lot and try to outrun other teams,” said Keyes, 18, noting he is comfortable with Schifino as coach.
At 6-10, senior Tyler Lewis promises to be an intimidating center.
Schifino considers senior guards Brandon Donovan and Connor Stevens two of the best shooters in the section.
Donovan has been deadly from 3-point range, while Stevens “can flat-out shoot,” the coach said.
Junior guard Dylan Smith is effective at threading defenses.
“He slashes and penetrates well,” Schifino said.
Junior Ryan McCallister is a scrappy backcourt player.
“Ryan brings grit to the team,” Schifino said.
Junior Kennedy Smith and senior Euhon Chan round out a solid guard rotation, with junior Derian Smith providing depth closer to the basket.
Steel Valley has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs the last two seasons. The Ironmen, who finished third in the section, were eliminated by Mars in overtime in an early-round game a year ago.
Schifino, a former Penn Hills standout who scored 2,320 points in high school and went on to play at West Virginia and professionally overseas, replaced Shawn McCallister, who was not retained after 12 seasons.
Steel Valley was 15-5 overall (8-4 Section 4-AAA) last season and graduated five players, including leading scorer Ajan Smith (Pitt-Johnstown).
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.