Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Center, Jula Reach Comfort Zone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Center, Jula Reach Comfort Zone

Article excerpt

The axiom is that the second year on any job is always easier.

That's because a routine has been set, expectations are understood and a familiarity with bosses and co-workers is established.

The same thing is often true in athletics. Take the Center High School boys' basketball team, for example.

Last season was the first for the Trojans under Mark Jula, a demanding veteran coach. It took the Center players time to learn a new system and understand what Jula wanted.

Despite a 10-14 overall record, there were positive signs. Center tied New Brighton for the third playoff spot out of Section 6-AA, advanced to the WPIAL's postseason and knocked off Neshannock, 57- 54, in a preliminary-round game before losing to North Catholic, 53- 39.

The Trojans are off to a 1-1 start this season, but Jula has noticed a difference.

"It has just been a lot easier," he said. "Last year I'd tell them to run a certain play and they would look at me like I was speaking another language. This year, they know what to do."

Jula, who has guided winning programs at Moon, Butler and North Allegheny in the WPIAL, said the change isn't unexpected. At each of those schools, his second year was outstanding.

He isn't saying Center will win a WPIAL title this season or even a section crown. But Jula does believe the Trojans will give themselves a chance to win most games.

That was evident this past weekend. Center knocked off host Hopewell, 67-62, in a tipoff tournament, then dropped a 62-55 decision to Beaver Falls.

Beaver Falls is the Post-Gazette's No. 2-ranked Class AA team and is expected to go deep into the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.

"We were right with them and they're supposed to be one of the top teams in the state," Jula said. "What does that say about us?"

Even before the Beaver Falls game Jula liked what he had seen of the Trojans in practices and scrimmages. Center is deeper than it was last season -- Jula expects to use nine players most games -- and is playing with a new-found confidence.

The Trojans understand they have to play tough full-court, man- to-man defense every second of every game to be successful, and they are willing to do that. …

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