Monday, March 13, 2023 | 10:24 PM
Northgate senior Stephen Goetz stayed home from school Monday with a little stomach virus.
Ironic, because he made McConnellsburg feel queasy in the first round of the PIAA boys basketball Class 2A playoffs.
Goetz had a monster performance Saturday in leading the Flames past the Spartans.
“We told him to use his 3-point shooting ability as a threat, and he was getting guys in the air, attacking the basket and shooting his floater and making lay-ups,” Northgate coach Cam Williams said. “When he’s making 3s and able to use that ability as a threat, he’s dangerous.”
Losing in the WPIAL finals to Aliquippa did not damage the Northgate psyche or its confidence, and it game out flying against District 5 runner-up McConnellsburg.
The Flames outscored the Spartans, 16-8, in the opening quarter and 26-7 in the second quarter to take a commanding 42-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“After that loss (in the WPIAL finals), the locker room wasn’t high energy,” Goetz said. “So I told them to take a look around, for our school to be playing at the Pete was crazy. After that, we all had one mindset: Hershey, Hershey, Hershey. Let’s just play our game and don’t let that loss affect us.”
The chocolate rally cry worked in the opening round as Northgate cruised to a big victory 67-42.
Goetz scored 31 points, and teammate junior Josh Williams added 22.
“A lot of people don’t know that we have been training together since third grade,” Goetz said. “Two years ago, me Josh and his brother would train every morning. I feel like us having done that allows us to click. It’s not just me and Josh. Our whole team have a really great connection and a great bond, which is good because a lot of teams don’t have that great bond.”
His coach realizes Goetz is a great example of what hard work can do for a high school player.
“He wasn’t even a starter in his 10th grade year,” Williams said. “He had a huge jump last year, going from averaging 6 points a game his sophomore year to averaging 20 his junior year. He has put in tremendous work in in the offseason. He’s always at offseason workouts, he has become more focused in the classroom and he’s a better practice player than in games. He practices harder than he plays in games, if you can believe it.”
Goetz, who has not decided where he will go college next year, loves what the success of this Flames team had done for the school and the community.
“It felt really good just being there (at Petersen Events Center) and showing up and walking inside,” Goetz said. In previous years, me, my coach and a couple other players would go there and enjoy it and be like, ‘Man, it would be cool if our team was out there some day.’
“It’s been a while since people from (Northgate) were engaged in a sport, but I feel like this year, it changed a lot. Our teachers, our teachers’ families are coming to games. It just feels good to finally have that winning team, a winning culture and a fan base.”
Northgate (20-7) advances to the second round Wednesday where it will face District 10 champion Erie First Christian (15-10).
“They’re the bigger team, and it looks like they’re hitting their stride at the right time,” Williams said. “They look like a solid team with a few good players. We approach every team the same: We take no one for granted.”
2022 Trib HSSN Players of the Week
Week 9 – Dante DePante, Central Catholic
Week 8 – Rodney Gallagher, Laurel Highlands
Week 7 – Dunny Rowe, McKeesport
Week 6 – Shea Champine, Bishop Canevin
Week 5 – Vinnie Cugini, Aquinas Academy
Week 4 – Makahi Valentine, Steel Valley
Week 3 – Royce Parham, North Hills
Week 2 – Jaydis Kennedy, Geibel Catholic
Week 1 – Joe Roth, Ellwood City