Jon's Blog
It’s the year of the big man in Lawrence County
Dec 11, 2007
When Mark Stanley took the New Castle head coaching job, Dave Smialowski knew the Red Hurricane had the right man.

Smialowski, a long-time assistant and junior varsity coach under Stanley at Union, says that Stanley’s personality make it almost impossible for a player not to like him.

“All he cares about is having fun and playing basketball,” Smialowski said, now the head coach of the Scotties. “His personality is perfect for the kids and his players all play hard for him.”

As opposed to John Sarandrea, who often would berate instead of encourage, Stanley remains calm throughout the game, only occasionally getting up from the bench.

A source of mine from inside the New Castle basketball team also said that Stanley takes the time to work on a player individually during practice and fixes things on the spot, something Sarandrea didn’t do regularly.

Last Thursday, the Neshannock girls beat Shenango 45-33. On the surface, it looks like any ordinary score.

That’s not the case.

The Lady Wildcats led 10-0 and 20-10 in the first half and 29-22 late in the third quarter. They outplayed the Lady Lancers, who up to that point had only made five field goals for the game.

Then everything started to fall for Neshannock, which went on a 22-2 run to end the game. Shenango scored just two points in the fourth quarter (both on free throws).

Joe Gierlach has a much better team this season, but it buckled when the Lady Lancers started to hit some shots.

The clubhouse leader for the first-ever Jon Geramita Favorite Player Award goes to Shenango’s Jessica Kusnierz.

Only a freshman, Kusnierz comes off the bench and sees good minutes for the Lady Wildcats.

The reason she is up for this esteemed award? Her uniform choices.

Picture this:

She is 5-foot-3, wears a thick, white headband; wears two knee pads; has one long, black ankle brace (with low white socks on the other foot), with a big, blue mouthpiece.

To cap it off, during the game with Neshannock, she got poked in the eye and was tearing up while playing.

Didn’t see her wince once.

Gotta love a gamer.

When Shenango’s Rich Gaston had 40 points and 17 rebounds last week against Ellwood City, a light bulb went off in the thing between my ears.

I was getting ready to write something later in the year about the wealth of big men in the county, but I wanted to wait for someone to have a monster game so I could back it up. Thanks, Rich.

So, I might as well give you the scaled-down version now, with a bigger version coming later on.

Gaston is only a junior and in my opinion was the Wildcats best big man last year, but came off the bench because Rocco Colavecchia and Zach Anderson started. But this kid can play. He’s a fluid athlete and should easily average between 14 to 18 points a game to go with 6 to 8 rebounds.

Gaston is getting loads of help from Mike Murcko, who has been consistently scoring in double figures. Murcko and Gaston, both 6-foot-5, make a great tandem in the paint and will be a load to handle for smaller Class AA teams.

Matt Lorello of Mohawk is another good one, and, like Gaston and Murcko, is only a junior. He dosen’t have the numbers the Shenango guys do, but in time his numbers will be right up there.

Mike “Moose” Andrews of New Castle is another top-notch post player this season. He looks to be in much better shape this season and is running the floor more, leading to some easy layups. His defense also has gotten better.
Much more to come...

Five best players of December (so far)
1. Tasia Wise, New Castle girls

2. Jordan Clingensmith, Union boys

3. Rich Gaston, Shenango boys

4. Mike Murcko, Shenango boys

5. Ashley Washington, Ellwood City girls

I’ll be honest. I get lonely sometimes.

Here at the News, my desk sits in the very back of the building, away from the newsroom in a room full of computers and servers and other stuff. It’s a glorified boiler room.

My only “friend” is a picture of Ellwood City football coach Frank Colao, to my left.

So, why not e-mail me some questions about high school hoops (or anything else, for that matter). Each week if you send me a question, I’ll post it on here with my response. (Hey, maybe I can even convince someone to get you a T-shirt).

My e-mail is

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