As a center, St. Joseph senior Pat Latini -- who his coach, Randy Kinnas, affectionately refers to as the ’little big man’ -- makes up for his
As a center, St. Joseph senior Pat Latini -- who his coach, Randy Kinnas, affectionately refers to as the 'little big man' -- makes up for his lack of height by playing with strength and technique. (Holly Pelczynski / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Being on the losing end of a last-second shot can be deflating for any team.

But, when you're a young St. Joseph boys basketball team trying to find its way under first-year coach Randy Kinnas, there are positives to take from playing city rival Taconic to the buzzer Friday night.

"The fact that we lost to them by over 30 points the first time we played. Then we came into their house and stayed with them. It showed the kids that they can play with anyone in Berkshire County," Kinnas said.

Playing on the road, especially in a close game, teams tend to look to veterans to make a play.

The Crusaders have only three seniors on the roster, none with significant varsity experience. As St. Joe continues to improve in pressure situations, count Taconic coach Bill Heaphy as someone who respects the efforts of the Crusaders basketball team.

"They're a team I think people automatically discount due to the kids that graduated last year," he said.

"We went into the game too nonchalant. The effort that St. Joe put out there should be recognized. They played with nothing to lose and did whatever Coach Kinnas told them to do."

Heaphy called St. Joe a blue-collar team, and one player who exemplifies that lunch-pail mentality is senior Pat Latini.

As a center, Latini -- who Kinnas affectionately refers to as the ‘little big man' -- makes up for his lack of height by playing with strength and technique.


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Latini battled with the bigs of Taconic on Friday, ending with a game-high 25 points, including three 3-pointers.

"I don't have the height as everybody else, but I'm able to hang using my strength and frame," he said.

"[Fundamentals] are a huge part of my play. Fundamentals are key in any game and any situation."

Latini and Devon Johnston bring versatility to the Crusaders' front line. Both are solid outside shooters and capable rebounders despite their lack of height.

Kinnas admitted, however, that the team's reliance on the 3-pointer can have its downsides.

"We don't have that inside-outside game," he said. "We're up-tempo. We shoot the open shot when we have them and we shoot a lot of threes. It can go wrong ... but that's how we have to play."

As the season goes on, Kinnas said he's hoping to improve the culture of the program. Two players served suspensions during the Taconic game due to team rules violations. Kinnas said he has certain rules and expectations from his team, and his players are aware of those rules.

Despite having to discipline players, Kinnas said his team is moving in the right direction.

"As a team I feel we're playing better," he said. "If we play with that passion, energy, and purpose we'll continue to improve, but we have to seal the deal.

"Once we get a few more wins, we'll get confidence and the team will do better."

To reach Akeem Glaspie:
aglaspie@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.