Brookville motivated for today's opening round of PIAA playoffs

BROOKVILLE — After falling in the District IX Class AA Championship game last Friday, the Raiders have been hard at work in practice this week preparing for the PIAA playoffs, which begin today.

Brookville (18-6) will face Sto-Rox (22-3), the No. 3 seed out of District VII, today in the opening round.

“We’re kind of going into it blind, but from what I could gather on the Internet, they’re very quick, they have excellent defense, and they look to trap and extend the pressure,” Brookville head coach Bud Baughman said. “They just kind of get right in your face and make you do things with the ball you don’t want to do.”

Sto-Rox’s leading scorer is Dontez Ford, a senior forward who will play for Syracuse’s football team this fall on a full scholarship. Ford averages almost 17 points per game.

The Vikings also have two big men inside: Sophomore Makil Allen (six-foot-six) and senior Carrington Ragin (six-foot-four), who could both appear in the starting lineup.

Although the Raiders played with home court advantage the past two years in the PIAA playoffs, Brookville has struggled against two strong WPIAL teams. In 2011, the Raiders lost to Jeannette, 68-57, and in 2010, they fell to Washington, 57-34.

In fact, the Raiders have just a 1-14 record in the PIAA championships, with their only win coming in 1997 over Seton-LaSalle, when Brookville was in Class AAA.

The Raiders have struggled to get motivated in the past few games, coming out with lower than anticipated intensity. But Baughman said he expects that to change today, especially because Brookville will be on such a large stage.

“I don’t know if there’s a way to get them motivated; if you can’t get them motivated for a game like this, something’s the matter,” Baughman said. “You shouldn’t have to brow beat them to play hard.”

Another big struggle for the Raiders has been a lack of offense behind senior powerhouse Zane Hackett, who averages almost 20 points per game. Behind him is senior Austin Burney, who averages less than 10 points per game. The Raiders have also struggled without the services of Tighe Truman, who leads Brookville with 28 threes.

But the Raiders have been working on this lack of offense in practice this week, as Baughman said they have been concentrating on getting the ball into a smart position on the floor.

“I just think it’s a matter of taking the best shots that are available,” Baughman said. “Sometimes, we’ve been passing up 10-footers to make eight-foot shots, and that’s not always the smartest decision. (We) need to take the best shot available.”

The Raiders have hung their hats on defense all season long, though, a trend that will continue today against Sto-Rox.

Although Baughman said he is not sure what to expect from the Vikings offensively, he does have a strategy entering today’s game.

“I imagine them to be big and strong,” Baughman said. “We’re going to have to play good, solid man-to-man defense and, obviously, rebound the basketball.”

Brookville has another goal in mind going into today’s game. Hackett is sitting at 993 career points.

He, Baughman and the Raiders want him to reach that 1,000 point mark.

“I think that’s really a goal for all of us is for him to get the points required and, hopefully, get it somewhat early, so he can focus on the game at hand,” Baughman said. “I think the kids want him to get the points, and I know I want him to get it. That’s definitely one of the goals going down there.”

The game against Sto-Rox will begin at 3 p.m. today at Gateway High School in Monroeville.