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SV boys hope for return to playoffs next season

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, February 10, 2016 11:03 p.m
CJSVJackCook021816
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Jack Cook competes against Shaler during a Section 3-AAAA boys basketball game Jan. 26, 2016, at Shaler.
CJSVJamirCarter021816
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Jamir Carter competes against Shaler during a Section 3-AAAA boys basketball game Jan. 26, 2016, at Shaler.
CJSVPaytonSkalos021816
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Payton Skalos competes against Shaler during a Section 3-AAAA boys basketball game Jan. 26, 2016, at Shaler.
CJSVNateTrzeciak021816
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Nate Trzeciak competes against Shaler during a Section 3-AAAA boys basketball game Jan. 26, 2016, at Shaler.

The Seneca Valley boys basketball team found itself in a strange position this season.

The Raiders were on the outside looking in when it came to the postseason picture.

A loss to Butler in last year’s season finale kept Seneca Valley home from the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

This year, the squad dropped its first eight Section 3 games to quickly fall out of the race.

“This is the first time I can remember in a long time that we weren’t fighting for the playoffs,” coach Victor Giannotta said.

“Next year’s outlook is to get back into the playoff hunt and maybe show this was an aberration.

“The outlook is not dismal in any way. We just have to do some good work in the offseason and get stronger.”

The Raiders got off to a 3-0 start with wins over Central Valley, West Allegheny and Perry.

Once they entered their section schedule, injuries took a toll. Two of the team’s top players in the rotation — junior guard Jack Cook and sophomore guard Chris Hart — missed extended time with injuries.

The rest of Section 3 wasn’t feeling much sympathy.

“We hit a rough patch. We didn’t play with our full starting lineup for half of our section games, but it’s no excuse,” Giannotta said. “Year in and year out, this section is arguably the best Quad-A section in the state.”

Seneca Valley picked up a win over Armstrong at the New Castle tournament but lost its next eight. The Raiders defeated Lakeview and then notched their first section win with a 67-53 decision at Shaler. After a loss to Pine-Richland, they beat Montour but closed the year with setbacks to North Allegheny and Butler to finish 7-15.

“It was a tough season from the standpoint of wins and losses. As crazy as it sounds, it wasn’t really disappointing.” Giannotta said. “The record is not something we’re happy with, but as far as the kids’ work ethic, intensity, camaraderie and desire to get better, it was a fine season.”

While Seneca Valley finished 1-11 in the section, the Raiders were within striking distance late in most of the setbacks.

“I don’t think anyone was unhappy with the way we played. We were in a lot of games,” Giannotta said. “Next year, these guys will be a year more experienced and stronger. I hope we capitalize on that. Hopefully, that experience will help us out and get us over the hump.”

Four seniors graduate from the squad, but most of the players who saw the most minutes return.

“We have a good nucleus of kids and we have a good rotation coming back,” Giannotta said. “Hopefully, with the amount of guys we had to play this year, we developed some depth and competition for next year.”

Giannotta looks forward to a strong offseason in order to get back to playoff contention next winter.

“From a coaching standpoint, I’d say we need to get stronger and more physical,” he said. “The section we play in, we have to be a little stronger in order to compete.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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