Tough road ahead for talented Latrobe boys basketball team
Latrobe won’t be criticized for playing a soft boys basketball schedule this winter.
The slate is dotted with demanding matchups, from tournaments at Canon-McMillan and Elmira, N.Y., to other nonsection clashes with Abington Prep, Penn Hills, Kiski School, Allderdice, Woodland Hills and Gateway.
“The schedule kind of came together. It’s not all by design, but it will be tough,” Wildcats coach Brad Wetzel said. “Who knows how we will fare, but it will help get us ready for section play. We’ll test ourselves.”
The New York trip, just after Christmas, is intriguing because Latrobe will be in the national bracket of the Josh Palmer Fund Elmira Holiday Inn Classic. The Wildcats’ appearance is a few years in the making. This was the year it fit into place.
Their new-look section (3-6A) has Connellsville, Fox Chapel, Hempfield, Norwin and Penn-Trafford — 10 more taxing games to keep the Wildcats on their toes. Defending Section 3 champion Woodland Hills and co-runner-up Penn Hills moved to Class 5A.
The Wildcats will lean on one of the top returning senior scoring combos in the WPIAL in guards Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler. Fenton averaged 22 points and Butler 20, as the fast-paced Wildcats went 16-8 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals, all while averaging 71.6 points a game.
Don’t expect Wetzel to change his style. If anything, Latrobe will want to pick up the pace. Slow-downs are for timeouts.
“Obviously, we have two outstanding seniors,” Wetzel said. “But we have some inexperience around them. A lot of our success if going to depend on how our younger guys blend in. We’ll be going against rich, experienced teams. Everybody (in the section) is better. It may take us some time to find the right lineup combinations.”
Fenton, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, is headed to Lehigh, where his father, Neal, played. Reed Fenton also averaged 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 assists last season.
“We’re getting better every day,” Fenton said. “We have a lot of guys who can knock down open shots. We know if we don’t reach our full potential it’s our fault.”
The 6-5 Butler, who provided 6.0 rebounds and three assists as a junior, is a West Liberty recruit.
“We all have to depend on each other,” Butler said. “If teams try and take Reed and I away, we’ll be able to get other guys involved. We lost some key guys, but some of our younger guys can step right in.”
East Carolina football recruit Trent Holler (6-3, 290 pounds) is expected to have an enhanced role as an enforcer on the low block.
“That football toughness can carry over,” Wetzel said.
Additional backcourt players Wetzel plans to work into the rotation include seniors Noah Belak and Alex Bisignani, sophomore Nate Clair and Ryan Sickenberger, junior Donnie Shikmo and freshman Frank Newell.
“Finding that rotation might take a few weeks,” Wetzel said. “Our 7, 8, 9; who’s in for who? We just aren’t sure yet.”
Junior forwards Mike Noonan (6-6) and Ethan Jacquet (6-4) will boost the frontcourt.
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.