David Mislan is hoping South Fayette continues to have a December to remember, because what the Lions learn this month will determine how successful the boys basketball team will be in 2020.
The Lions are 3-0 having opened with a championship in the South Park Tip-off Tournament before following up that triumph with a 72-66 victory against Beaver.
“We are very encouraged with our progress, attitude and work ethic,” said Mislan, “and we expect to continue to get better and learn from our mistakes.
Additionally, Mislan said for the Lions to achieve their goals, they need to “navigate” through a tough stretch of a schedule that features eight road trips in the first nine games.
“We need to continue to improve each day while we integrate some our our newcomers to find our identity,” he said. “I believe we will be playing our best basketball come January.”
The Lions demonstrated they are ready to go toe-to-toe with section foes like Chartiers Valley, Montour and Trinity. South Fayette edged the host Eagles, 61-60, and Cornell, 80-73, to win the South Park tournament.
SF’s four returning starters led the way and blended well with Brandon Jakiela. The sophomore filled out the starting line-up and is one of five newcomers expected to make a difference this season.
Kade St. Ledger exploded for a game-high 29 points against Cornell. The junior pulled down 10 rebounds. He scored 18 points and eight rebounds in the win against South Park.
Connor Mislan provided 14 points, six assists and three steals against Cornell. The senior pumped in 13 points, including seven in the final quarter as well as the game-winning field goal at the buzzer, against the Eagles. He also collected six assists.
Joe Alcorn registered eight points and two assists against Cornell. He buried two critical, 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Against South Park, he provided six points and four assists.
Drew Franklin missed the championship contest because of a family funeral, but provided six points, seven rebounds and seven assists against Cornell.
“Our senior leadership was fantastic throughout,” said Mislan. “Drew, Connor and Joe all made impact plays in the last two minutes against Cornell.”
Mislan said the trend continued in the championship as his son scored seven of the Lions’ last 10 points, including the buzzer beater, and Alcorn buried a “huge 3” down the stretch.
Jakiela chipped in 18 points and six rebounds against Cornell and managed nine points and seven rebounds against the Eagles. He added six assists in each outing.
Additionally, Dom Thomas came through in the final. The senior pitched in nine points and grabbed six rebounds.
“The team played extremely unselfish,” Mislan said of the tournament. “We played very gritty, particularly down the stretch in both games.”
Because they are quite experienced, the Lions are playing well out of the gates.
South Fayette lost only three players from last year’s 10-12 squad to graduation –Ben Coyne, Braden Hoy and Ryan Fleming. Coyne, who provided two points and three rebounds, and Fleming are currently playing football at Carnegie Mellon University and Grove City College, respectively.
Meanwhile, Mislan, Franklin and Alcorn have played together for three years. The seniors are returning starters along with St. Ledger.
A two-time, first-team all-conference selection, Mislan led the Lions in scoring last season with a 15-point average. He also dished up four assists and grabbed three rebounds a game.
Franklin led in rebounding with six an outing, matching his point output. Alcorn provided eight points and three assists to the line-up while St. Ledger managed seven points and five rebounds.
In addition to Jakiela, the Lions are relying on five additional newcomers. Logan Yater and Landon Lutz, like Jakiela, are sophomores while Danny Beck and Jake Dunay are juniors.
While the Lions continue to mesh together, they are also working on their limitations.
“We need to be a better rebounding team and create some easier baskets,” Mislan said, “but our guard play is our team’s strength. We are experienced at all three spots and have depth at all those guard positions.
“We are pleased with our progress and intent to keep getting. We plan to be playing our best basketball later in the season.”