South Fayette’s Class AA PIAA football championship came at a price.
While the Lions went on a lengthy playoff run on their way to the school’s first state football championship, South Fayette’s boys basketball team, led by head coach Rich Bonnaure, progressed through preseason practices and opened their season Dec. 6 with a 65-55 win over Fort Cherry.
Five of South Fayette’s players will not join the team until Monday, just one day after defeating Imhotep Charter in Hershey, 41-0. While the football team’s championship run caused the group of players to miss two games, they did not have basketball off of their minds. During the week leading up to South Fayette’s 34-28 victory over Aliquippa in the Class AA WPIAL football championship game, Lions junior quarterback and starting center Brett Brumbaugh was shooting around in the gym to prepare for the high school basketball season to begin.
“We call it a great problem to have, but to be honest, it’s really tough skill-wise,” Bonnaure said. “It shows the kind of kids that we have. We’ve got winners.”
Joining Brumbaugh in the South Fayette (2-0) starting lineup is his record-setting wide receiver, senior Justin Watson, who is the starting power forward for the Lions and a defensive force in the lane. The other three football players joining Bonnnaure’s squad are senior Ben Berkovitz, junior Matt O’Rourke and junior Jack Relihan.
Watson and Brumbaugh will start for South Fayette, along with Relihan, junior Nick McKee and the fifth starter has yet to be determined.
“Justin is the kind of kid that you could put on their best defender and we probably will,” Bonnaure said. “The nice part is he can take on a big kid or a guard. He can step out and guard the best guard if he has to. He’s a great rebounder. He sets a heck of a screen with that large frame that he has.
This is not the first time South Fayette’s boys basketball team had a late start to the season. When the Lions football team reached the Class AA championship game in 2010, a large contingent of players did not join the basketball team until mid-December. The results were unexpected but historic.
South Fayette used size and good guard play to win the Class AA WPIAL Tournament and advancing to the PIAA semifinals were they lost to Montour, 57-44 at Chartiers Valley High School.
The lack of players on the roster has caused South Fayette to postpone five games, including two Section 5-AAA bouts against South Park and Keystone Oaks. The Lions will not take the court again until Dec. 27 in the Peters Township Tournament against Allderdice.
The key contributor to South Fayette in the season’s first two games has been junior Nick McKee, who used experience gained off the bench last season to show polish on the outside as a guard.
With the five players returning to the court Monday, Bonnaure was nervous to throw the players in against Keystone Oaks, a section opponent. The late addition of key players caused the postponement of the game against the section opponent.
“I’m probably going to let them to come in slowly and see what happens,” Bonnaure said. “I’m sure some of them will be ready to roll on Monday. We have a lot of kids this year who are pretty nice players.”