By Tom Robinson
J.J. Walsh got started early in the first Pittston Area boys basketball game after the holiday break and he never stopped.
The sophomore guard poured in career-highs of eight 3-pointers and 33 points Friday when the Patriots opened Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 play by breaking a seven-game Dallas winning streak with a 66-59 victory.
“My teammates were just finding me,” Walsh said. “I hit my first two and once you start making a few, you just keep shooting them, it gets you in that rhythm.”
Walsh’s performance makes him the PNC Bank District 2 Boys Basketball Player of the Week selection by NEPABasketball.com for the period ending Sunday.
“They played that zone,” said Walsh, who is also a JB Hoops AAU player. “So, Brennan (Higgins) and I just passed it around up top until one of us got open.
“That seemed to be working, so we stuck with it.”
Walsh has shown the ability to come through early and late this season for the Patriots.
After contributing off the bench last season as a freshman, he leads the Patriots in scoring at more than 15 points per game and in 3-pointers with more than three per game. Walsh’s early exploits – and Pittston Area’s ability to turn back several Dallas comeback attempts – made sure no dramatic finish was needed Saturday.
When called on, however, he has hit two game-winners this season, beginning with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Hanover Area Opening Night and continuing less than two years later with a pair of free throws in the final two seconds. Both times, he took the Patriots from behind to the winning points.
“I didn’t think it would be going this well,” Walsh said. “Last year, I came off the bench, so I knew I was going to have to score a lot more this year.”
After a 1-2 start under new coach Al Semenza, the Patriots have won six out of seven with only a one-point loss at the buzzer against Holy Redeemer during that stretch.
“With the new coach, it’s starting to click now and we’re playing a lot of good defense, too,” Walsh said.
Walsh’s father was a three-year player at Pittston Area and J.J. started playing basketball when he was four. He went to Backcourt Hoops in Scranton in fifth grade to start expanding his game and returned in eighth grade to become part of the JB Hoops AAU team playing for the JB Hoops McGoff Regional team on the U-15 level last season.
“We went a lot of places rather than just playing locally,” Walsh said. “It was just time for me to branch out again.”
J.J. is the son of John and Jennifer Walsh of Pittston.