Shaler boys basketball hopes standard set continues in future

By: Josh Rizzo
Friday, March 15, 2019 | 7:49 PM

Rob Niederberger does everything possible to get the Shaler boys basketball team exposure to different styles during the summer.

That strategy helped the Titans make their first appearance in the PIAA playoffs in seven years an eventful one. Shaler took District 10 champion Meadville down to the wire before losing 49-44 at Edinboro.

The Titans had nearly two weeks off following a loss to Mars in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

“I thought defensively we played one of our best games,” Niederberger said. “I’m proud of the way we fought. We had a long break between our loss at WPIALs and going to states. I was happy with the way we came out and played.”

Matt Bendel led the Titans with 13 points, and Mekhi Reynolds and Brennan Fugh scored 10 each.

Because the PIAA no longer has East vs. West championship brackets, there were no all-WPIAL matchups in the first round. That was a welcome change for Niederberger.

“Despite the travel, if you ask all the coaches involved, I don’t think they minded,” Niederberger said. “It gives you different looks and a fresh look at the state playoffs.”

Shaler’s journey this year ended with a 17-9 record. The Titans picked up their first playoff win in the first round of WPIALs against McKeesport.

The Titans’ five seniors — Luke Bebout, Justin DeSabato, Colton Schott, Fugh and Bendel — have come a long way since Niederberger took over.

“They are a product of hard work and committing to the program,” Niederberger said. “There is no secret. That’s what these guys did and what we expect. This is the standard of what we expect every year.”

Niederberger wants the standard to continuing moving forward.

Shaler’s goals are to win section, WPIAL and state crowns. The Titans plan to continue pushing to get there.

“It’s always open competition,” Niederberger said. “I tell these guys every day in practice and open gyms that we are there to evaluate them. It’s always there. These guys know that. There is no day where we are in the gym to sit there and lollygag. We are there to work and get better.”