Monday January 3, 2022 | 7:03 p.m.
Five years ago, the North Hills boys’ basketball team reached the WPIAL semi-finals, losing to eventual Class 6A champion Pine-Richland. The Indians finished 19-7.
Since then, the Indians have had a hard time missing out on the playoffs every year with the exception of the open tournament last year. As of 2017-18, North Hills has had a combined 22-56.
However, if December is any indication, these recent struggles for North Hills could be a distant memory.
The Indians fly out of the gates and have won all six games before the New Year.
“At the start of last season, the coaching staff thought we had a chance to be in the top four teams in 6A,” said North Hills coach Buzz Gabos. “We never picked up a pace from late October to early March. We were young and needed time in the field to develop consistency and chemistry. It never happened. We missed so much practice time that we always made it up on the fly.
“We came back on April 1 and had to start over on both sides of the floor. The players had to learn to play with each other. We have focused on winning games, communication and accountability. As we started to win games the guys started to believe in each other.
North Hills had two more victories last week in the Hampton Holiday tournament. The Indians beat Chartiers Valley and host Hampton by a total of 65 points.
On Tuesday, the Indians beat the Colts, 89-56.
“Chartiers Valley’s record is disappointing,” said Gabos. “With Bishop Canevin, they played the most difficult non-conference program in WPIAL. They came out fast against us and made some tough shots in the first quarter. We put together a few stops in the second quarter, got out in transition, and got some momentum. “
Twenty-four hours later, the Indians defeated the Talbots, 82-50.
“Hampton did a good job performing his offensive sets and controlling the tempo for the first 10 minutes,” said Gabos. “The game was similar to the day before because we were better able to make saves towards the end of the half and came out in transition. “
Much of North Hills’ success lies in its attack. The Indians are No. 2 in the WPIAL in terms of scores, averaging 81.5 points per game, behind Laurel Highlands by 0.3 ppg.
“We have four seniors, one junior, three sophomores and one freshman in the rotation,” Gabos said. “They have all contributed in a positive way. They love each other. The seniors have developed leadership qualities on and off the pitch, which has been key.
“Royce Parham is averaging over 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) and is getting a lot of attention. Alex Smith is around 20 per game, with a handful of assists and steals. Matt Seidl has been a complete player on both sides, scoring on one good clip while doing everything else. Will Blass sets the tone with his overall effort. Devin Burgess regains health and finds the rhythm. Logan Johnson scored it effectively and played well on defense. Our bench guys provided depth and productivity.
Despite being happy with his team’s play, Gabos doesn’t try to be dizzy to find out where the Indians are at the break.
“Final scores can be misleading,” he said. “We’ve been in a number of really good games where the end result didn’t indicate how difficult the game was or how hard we had to play. We have a lot of work to do on both sides. The competition will only be more difficult. The teams are well trained with a lot of talent. We must continue to improve ourselves every day.
The challenges will be coming at full speed this week for the Indians. North Hills hosts Pine-Richland on Tuesday and visits undefeated North Allegheny on Friday in Section 1-6A action, then it hosts Class 4A Power Montour on Saturday.
“We’re always talking about playing the best and challenging ourselves,” Gabos said. “We will face three of the best teams in the region this week. We are excited and hopefully up to the challenge.
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