Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bridgers Are Enjoying a Turnaround

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bridgers Are Enjoying a Turnaround

Article excerpt

When Mark Jula walked into a situation many would view as bleak, he saw some signs of promise.

It was 2012 and he was taking over an Ambridge boys' basketball program that had been struggling mightily, having gone a combined 5- 37 over the two previous seasons.

An Ambridge graduate, Jula had seen what success looked like at that school with WPIAL and state championships in 1967, when he was in junior high, and a WPIAL runner-up finish in 1970, a team he played for. Sure, the team and program didn't represent what it once did, but Jula saw that there was at least the potential for change.

"Certainly they weren't winning, but when I walked in, there was a lot of young talent," Jula said. "I think what we tried to establish was a winning attitude, a hardworking ethic and bringing back a pride in the program."

Not even a season and a half into Jula's tenure, the early results are encouraging. After a 14-9 finish in 2012-13, the Bridgers are 7-3 after their first 10 games this season, a run that has featured the sort of highlights that would have been hard to imagine less than two years ago.

First, they won three of their four games at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas in mid-December and about a week later, they defeated one of the WPIAL's top teams in Chartiers Valley, albeit without Colts star guard Matty McConnell.

For a program that lost its final 10 games of the 2011-12 season, the progress has been remarkable.

"If you look at a year and a half ago, the last game Ambridge played they lost to West Allegheny by about 40," Jula said. "In that time, you went from a drubbing to beating the best team in the WPIAL and winning three in Las Vegas. That's some monumental growth."

Though Jula's impact on the program has been tremendous, his players have obviously had a large role in the team's success. Junior guard Stephon McGinnis is averaging a team-high 18.3 points per game and 6-foot-4 junior Daylon Carter is close behind with 17.3 points per game. Along with those notable contribution comes youth, as the team starts three juniors and a freshman, meaning that these achievements could be sustainable. …

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