High School Basketball Season Preview: Penn-Trafford Warriors

PT boys must replace several key contributors while the girls hope to make up loss of Suman

Sun Nov 27, 2022 - 10:44AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Lilly Paladino and Jason Sabol look to power the Warriors this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)Lilly Paladino and Jason Sabol look to power the Warriors this season. (Photo by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Sun Nov 27, 2022 - 4:06PM

Penn-Trafford Warriors Boys

Head Coach: Doug Kelly – 3rd season

Conference: Class 5A Section 3

Last Season: 9-13 overall - lost to Upper St. Clair in WPIAL 6A first round

Key Losses: Ben Myers, Nick Crum, Noah Wright, Johnny DeMarchis

Key Returners: Tyler Freas, Jason Sabol, Nathan Crum, Andrew Kessler, Ian Temple

Promising Newcomers: Ethan Kane, Keith Otto, Carmen Metcalfe, Tyler Anthony, Connor Evangeliste, Evan Gross, Jack Weishaar, Brayden Stone, Tyler Boss

Although Penn-Trafford made the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs a year ago, head coach Doug Kelly has frequently reminded his team of how they could’ve been better last season. The Warriors won nine games in 2021-22, in spite of Kelly noting that his squad might’ve been the worst passing team in the WPIAL.

He hopes that drilling that message will prompt his team to respond, despite the loss of several key contributors due to graduation. Gone are Nick Crum and Noah Wright, each of whom averaged in the range of 12-13 points per game, along with Johnny DeMarchis, who was a leader and defensive stalwart. Ben Myers also graduated after suffering an injury that prevented him from enjoying what was likely to be a breakout campaign.

A quintet of players with notable experience return to the lineup, however, led by the junior guard duo of Jason Sabol and Tyler Freas. Two other juniors, guard Nathan Crum and guard/forward Ian Temple, and 6-foot-5 senior center Andrew Kessler round out the core for PT.

A bevy of players are also competing for their first significant varsity minutes, including senior Ethan Kane, juniors Keith Otto and Carmen Metcalfe, sophomores Tyler Anthony, Connor Evangeliste, Evan Gross, and Jack Weishaar, and freshman Tyler Boss. Another player in the mix is Brayden Stone, a sophomore point guard who transferred in from Burrell.

Kelly was impressed by his team’s performance throughout the summer and into the fall, as the team’s chemistry and energy appear to be strengths.

“We continue to obviously try and get better, offensively and defensively. We still have a ways to go on both ends of the floor,” he said.

“Our expectations are built around improvements in all areas, including our leadership skills, but specifically on finishing defensive possessions and finding ways to score.,” he added. “We hope to improve every day and be playing our best basketball in January.”

Dropping from 6A to 5A, the Warriors will be pitted in Section 3, along with Gateway, Kiski Area, McKeesport Area, Franklin Regional, and Greater Latrobe. The Gators and Cavs qualified for postseason play a year ago.

The Warriors also composed a challenging nonsection slate, which includes showdowns against former 6A foes Hempfield Area, Norwin, and Pittsburgh Central Catholic, as well as North Hills, Penn Hills, Peters Township, Highlands, Trinity, and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Penn-Trafford Warriors Girls

Head Coach: John Giannikas – 17th season

Conference: Class 5A Section 3

Last Season: 12-10 overall - lost to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL 6A quarterfinals

Key Losses: Maura Suman

Key Returners: Olivia Pepple, Kamryn Pieper, Lilly Palladino, Lauren Marton, Kylee Piconi

Promising Newcomers: Torrie DeStefano, Bryana Bennett, Paige Temple, Isabella Klobucar

Bumped up to Class 6A in the last cycle, the Penn-Trafford girls more than held their own in the largest classification. After a couple of playoff appearances, including a 12-win campaign last season, the Warriors are back down in Class 5A, and they appear poised to be in the postseason mix once again.

First, PT must fill the massive void left by guard Maura Suman, who is now playing at Edinboro University. Suman averaged 10 points per game in 2021-22, and she also established the PT record for career steals.

Several key components are back in the fold for the Warriors, though, including junior Olivia Pepple. After averaging 11 points a year ago, Pepple has garnered significant college interest, including an offer from Fairleigh Dickinson. She’ll be joined in the rotation by fellow letterwinners seniors Lilly Palladino and Kylee Piconi, and sophomores Kamryn Pieper and Lauren Marton. Palladino has pledged to continue her career on the hardwood at Penn State Behrend.

Several other players could carve out a role on the varsity squad, including sophomores Bryana Bennett, Paige Temple, and Isabella Klobucar, and freshman Torrie DeStefano.

With championship-winning coach John Giannikas at the helm of the program, the Warriors aim to make a playoff run.

Class 5A Section 3 will provide no respite, though, as the Warriors will battle against McKeesport Area, Greater Latrobe, Oakland Catholic, Albert Gallatin, Connellsville Area, and Thomas Jefferson. Every team in the section qualified for the postseason a year ago, with the Tigers and Wildcats splitting a section title.

The Warriors will open their season in the Baldwin/Peters Township Tournament, and will also face rival Norwin before opening the section ledger at home against Connellsville Area on Dec. 15.