Peters Township coach Joe Urmann is not a science teacher but he understands the concepts required to mold last year’s Indians boys basketball team, which had a 6-9 record, into a winner.
In his second season, Urmann said he has a better understanding of his personnel and how they should be playing.
“I’ve gotten to know our players more,” he said. “We’re still building that chemistry and those relationships that are so important in order to have a successful program.
“I think we have an opportunity to have much better chemistry as a group. We’re going to need to play unselfishly and really share well to be effective. We’re not there yet but I like us taking steps that way.”
Urmann will find out how far the Indians have progressed when they host two games this weekend against strong competition in the AHN/Highmark Tip-Off Tournament. The Indians play Albert Gallatin tonight (7:30) and Laurel Highlands Saturday afternoon (1:30). Laurel Highlands has Rodney Gallagher, the top-ranked junior in the state. Gallagher announced Thursday that he will play football instead of basketball in college.
The Indians have the potential to be a high-scoring, well-oiled offensive machine as they return three starters from a team that posted a 4-1 record in Section 2 during a COVID-19 protracted season.
The Indians only played opponents that wore facial coverings and all teams in the WPIAL could opt in for the district’s open tournament.
Gavin Cote led the team in scoring with a 15.1-point average. An all-section performer, the senior also pulled down 3.2 rebounds a game.
Peters Township seniors Pat McDonnell and Aaron Brula are also returning starters. McDonnell managed 7.4 points while Burla provided six points. Both grabbed four rebounds per game.
A handful of players are competing for playing time including Evan Puhl and Jake Macosko. A 6-7 senior, Puhl did not play last season and Macosko saw minutes as a starter but mainly came off the bench for the Indians.
Brendan McCullough will be asked to do a lot for the Indians, including much of the ball-handling responsibilities, Urmann said.
Jake Ziegler also made huge strides during the offseason, Urmann said.
“Jake can get it done on both ends,” he said.
Jack Dunbar, Cam Mills, Nate Miller and Luke Markowski are also expected to log minutes off the bench for the Indians.
“All are eager to prove themselves,” Urmann said.
The Indians are using the preseason to improve in their physicality and rebounding.
“Having our football guys back in the mix will help us a bit there,” Urmann said. “We still need to take better care of the ball and improve decision making on offense.”
Oh, and the Indians, still have to focus on that chemistry assignment if they intent to contend for a section championship.
“That’s our first objective,” said Urmann. “In order to achieve that, we need to be willing to sacrifice individual desires for the good of the team.
“Basketball is a team game,” he added. “We need to pass up good shots for great ones on offense. And we need to understand, accept, and fulfill our roles in order to maximize our potential as a group.”
Peters Township is among 20 local boys teams that will open their seasons today, as will 20 girls teams. Much of the action will be in two-day tournaments.