While coaching the Eisenhower Lady Knights, Dave Allenson made it commonplace for Eisenhower to be among the District 10 and PIAA postseason fields.
In his first season guiding the boys program, Allenson has the Knights back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus. The Knights compete in the D-10 Class A quarterfinals against VisionQuest Friday at Meadville High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Coming off a 5-17 campaign a season ago, the Knights turned things around this season. Fueled by a six-game winning streak from December 28 through January 24, the Knights finished 13-9 and enter the D-10 playoffs as the fourth seed in Class A.
Times Observer file photo by Josh?Cotton
Eisenhower’s Colin Shine dribbles around a Titusville opponent during a boys basketball contest earlier this season at Corry Area High School. Shine and the Knights face VisionQuest in the District 10 Class A?Quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Meadville Area High?School.
"We're a year older and have another year of experience under our belts," said Allenson. "That's allowed us to become a little stronger and play a little smarter on the court."
The Knights last reached the playoffs in 2009-10 under coach Steve Norris, finishing third in D-10 and qualifying for the PIAA Tournament where they suffered a 43-29 first-round loss to Rochester.
The team's scoring can come from any number of places as the Knights boast seven players who scored at least 110 points this season. Junior guard-forward Aaron Lundmark leads the way with 236 points (10.7 points per game) followed by senior guard Josh Deppas (214, 9.7 ppg) and junior guard Colin Shine (185, 8.4 ppg).
Senior guard Joe Rutsky and juniors Nathan O'Brien, Andrew Onoratti and Ryan Williams also topped the 100-point mark for the Knights this year.
Opposing the Knights on Friday will be D-10 Class A's fifth-seed in VisionQuest. The Eagles, from Franklin, are the third seed out of Region 1 and enter the playoffs with an overall mark of 11-8.
That's not to say the Eagles aren't explosive. They boast the district's second leading scorer in Darrian Brown. Brown averaged 21.7 ppg and nearly eight rebounds per game in 18 outings this season and he doesn't handle the workload alone.
Teammate Nasir Mitchell deposited 13.5 ppg this season and Bysin Howzell chipped in 11.3 ppg. That powerful 1-2-3 punch makes the Eagles a dangerous opponent each time out.
"Brown may be one of the best players in all of District 10," said Allenson. "He can score anywhere from 23 feet to dunking the ball. He and Mitchell are very good shooters and the other guys are talented at crashing the boards and cleaning up those missed shots."
The winner of Friday's game will next meet West Middlesex in the D-10 Class A semifinals on Tuesday. One win by the Knights would assure them of at least two more games as the top three finishers in the district advance to PIAA play.
District 9 Class A Quarterfinals
Sheffield at Ridgway, 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Sheffield won their first District 9 boys basketball playoff game since returning to District 9 in 2005 with a 54-51 home win over Venango Catholic.
Getting the second win since its return is going to take some work.
Sheffield (14-9) draws AML champion Ridgway (23-1) in the District 9 Class A Quarterfinals scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Ridgway High School.
The Wolverines didn't have long to celebrate after their narrow victory over the Vikings in front of a capacity crowd. On paper, the Wolverines don't appear to have much of a shot.
Lucky for them, the games are played on the court - and Sheffield is just one upset away from locking up a trip to the PIAA Class A playoffs. The top four teams from D-9 Class A qualify.
"It's an even bigger game than Wednesday," said Sheffield coach Todd Fitch. "In our two losses against Ridgway this season, they pressed us hard, we didn't handle it well and they jumped out to a big lead. Our focus in practice (Thursday) was on breaking the press and not letting them control the tempo of the game.
"We're just trying to keep a positive attitude. The past is the past and we can't change that. We've grown as a team these past couple of games and we just want to keep moving forward."
Nearly every member of the Sheffield roster stepped up at one time or another during Wednesday's win. Ike Nearing scored 15 points and had several key cuts to the bucket and Mark Sprandle scored 14 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
Kalil Slaughter was the team's third player to reach double figures scoring 10 points, including a key jumper with 17 seconds left.
The Elkers have been a District 9 buzzsaw all season, losing just once in their 24-game schedule. That loss was a 53-41 decision in Johnsonburg on February 7. The other 23 games have been all Elkers - all the time.
In winning its first 19 games of the year, Ridgway relied heavily on the sharpshooting of standout Eric Matheson. Matheson, a 5'10 senior guard, averaged 18 points a game this season and had his best outing of the year against the Wolverines.
In a 76-44 win over the Wolverines in February, Ridgway got 38 points from Matheson on 13-of-17 shooting. The Elkers first beat the Wolverines, 73-36, January in Sheffield.
Matheson doesn't do it all. The team also has viable scorers in 6'1 junior guard Jesse Reynolds and 5'10 senior guard Jordan Lundin. Reynolds scored 8.6 ppg this year with Lundin close behind with 8.3 ppg.
If Sheffield can find a way to get the job done, it would assure itself of at least three more games this season. Those games would come in the D-9 semis, the D-9 championship or consolation game and the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.