Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wash High preparing for rematch with Burrell

Wash High's Nate Swart (left) and DeQuay Isbell (right).
Wash High’s boys basketball team stepped foot on the court at Hempfield High School on Feb. 20, 2013 with one of the area’s top offensive talents. Josh Wise was scoring at an impressive rate and the Prexies were set to face Burrell in the second round of the Class AA WPIAL tournament.

The result was not what head coach Mark Gaither hoped for. The senior-heavy Buccaneers defeated Wash High, 61-50, as Wise’s career ended. After Wise graduated, many expected the Prexies’ program to take a step backward. Instead, they took a leap forward.

That progress will be tested Saturday when Wash High has its long-awaited rematch with Burrell at Chartiers Valley at noon.

The team’s two seniors, Quorteze Levy and Dupree Jenkins, are model leaders for Wash High and a young group of supporting players has risen to the occasion. Front and center for the Prexies, who finished in second place in Section 4-AA, is sophomore Nate Swart.

Swart’s combination of size and soft touch on the perimeter has been a steady catalyst for Gaither and Wash High. Only a sophomore, Swart translated minimal playing time last season into success. He watched as Wise’s senior class was forced to walk off the court with unfulfilled dreams of a WPIAL title.

A clean slate has been the saving grace for Wash High.

Joining Levy in the post is DeQuay Isbell, who has been a consistent force in the lane and a much-needed crutch for the Prexies. Add the guard play of Jenkins and Jonathan Spina and this year’s Wash High team can hang with the best.

My doubts were raised when they dropped a section game to top-seeded Seton-La Salle, 66-32, on Jan. 9. The Prexies were outplayed from start to finish with the Rebels finding success inside and out. But as with all teams, it is how you respond to such a loss that truly matters.

For Wash High, the response was a strong effort against Seton-La Salle in the two teams’ rematch on Jan. 31. The Prexies did lose, but by a margin of just eight points. While the first time around everything worked for the Rebels, the second meeting saw Wash High gain ground on the state’s top-ranked team in Class AA.


The Prexies’ matchup first round matchup with Burrell is similar, but different at the same time. Like Wash High, the Bucs have fresh faces and with a potential matchup with Summit Academy on the line, the stakes are high. The WPIAL did not do the Prexies any favors by placing them in the same bracket as Seton-La Salle, but with Wash High's improved roster and the unpredictable nature of postseason basketball, anything can happen.

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