Basketball has always been in his blood, from the first time he picked up a ball.
He learned the game from his father, uncle and cousins. Year ’round, year after year. So it was inevitable Matt Votino would blossom into a ’baller.
“I don’t remember never being at a basketball game,” Votino recently related. “Both my dad and uncle coached, so as soon as I could walk I was in (the gym) watching and learning.”
Following a stellar scholastic career at Hickory High, Votino will matriculate at NCAA Division III University of Mount Union to continue his education and cage career.
“It just seemed right. I really love the coaches and really wanted to play for them. They seem like genuine guys,” Votino explained.
The 2012-13 Purple Raiders recorded a 13-15 ledger under head coach Mike Fuline, but advanced to the Ohio Athletic Conference title tilt before bowing at Marietta (80-76).
Votino visited the Alliance, Ohio campus, and after considering Allegheny, Juniata and D-II Slippery Rock University, he opted to matriculate at Mount Union.
“It just seemed right. I really love the coaches, really wanted to play for them. They’re real, genuine guys,” Votino said.
After securing 2nd-Team honors as a sophomore for Hickory head coach Nick Cannone, Votino vaulted to a 1st-Team District 10 All-Region berth as both a junior and senior. Ultimately he was chosen to the All-D-10 1st-Team (all classifications) as a senior. He scored 1,243 points for the Hornets, who qualified for the postseason all 4 years.
He honed his skills during that same span playing for the New Jersey Cyclones coached by Mike Cervillino.
“I traveled to New Jersey evey weekend during the the AAU season for four years (about 50 games a season) to play against the top AAU teams in the country, and was one of the leading scorers on the team,” Votino related. “Mike Cervillino has coached close to a hundred Division I and II players and a handful of NBA players.”
A standout for his father at the former Notre Dame elementary school, Votino recalled,
“Coming in to Hickory, they had a lot of really good players on that team, but my dad told me if I worked hard, I’d play varsity. I thought he was crazy — a freshman coming in and playing varsity? I didn’t think that’d be possible. But as my career went on I set goals for myself, and a lot of them I achieved.”
As time progresses at the next level — ideally, winning the OAC championship and qualifying for the NCAA D-III Tournament — Votino envisions continued improvement.
“The (Purple Raiders’) offense is fast-paced, but the coaches stress defense,” Votino explained, noting, “but they also have a place for shooters, a lot of three-point opportunities.
“The first year, maybe just a couple minutes (per game), working myself in(to the rotation). But after that,” Votino forecasted, “hopefully becoming a bigger part of the building process.
“I had other options, but ... this was the best fit basketball-wise and education-wise,” emphasized Votino, who is trying to decide between sports business management of exercise science for a career path. He was an honors student at Hickory.
Votino recalled his introduction to the sport, when he watched his cousins Ryan and Danny McElhinny helping Kennedy Catholic claim numerous commonwealth crowns.
“I remember all the Kennedy games, the playoffs, the trips to Hershey. That really made me like the game, and watching (his cousins) succeed just made me want to do more,” he related.
Votino expressed gratitude to Cannone, his right-hand man Rick Ladjevich and the remainder of Hickory’s coaching staff, Cervillino, and particularly his first mentor.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without my dad (Bob),” Votino emphasized, “it’s been my whole family (mother Kim and sister Courtney), but particularly my dad. He’s been there through everything — basketball and everything else. I’m so grateful to have him.”
Basketball has always been in his blood, from the first time he picked up a ball.
Roundup: WM girls beat UC; Sharpsville, KC fall
ä West Middlesex 52, Union City 27 — At Union City, coach Mike Williams’ Region 1-A Ms. Reds improved to 2-1 with a win over the Lady Bears of Region 4-AA.
Alyson Pierce scored 15 to lead WM, Noelle Murray registered 13 points and Allie Staunch bucketed 10 markers.
Hickory falls to Lions in PIAA Class AA western region final
SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Brest seemed, Saturday afternoon, momentarily lost in thought when a post-game question was posed. Perhaps it was because it had been 3 months since he had experienced the disappointment of defeat.
Brumbaugh-led South Fayette’s football team short-circuited a splendid season a step shy of the statewide stage for Brest and Hickory High with a 23-20 win over the Hornets in the PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
SPORTVIEW: Browns, Steelers will both lose
THE CLEVELAND Browns quarterback position has been a revolving door this season, but at least one of the more successful signal-callers is back. Jason Campbell is recovered from a concussion and will start.
Does it really matter?
Roundup: Opening-weekend tipoff tourneys conclude
Kittanning Tipoff Championship
ä Hickory 60, Kittanning 32 — Coach Jeannette Whitehead’s Lady Hornets had an impressive weekend in winning the opening tourney of the season.
“It’s nice to get out of the game with a win,” said Whitehead. “The kids were anxious to get going.”
2013-14 hoops season begins with tipoff tourneys
Farrell Julius McCoy Tipoff Tourney
ä Kennedy Catholic 48, Imani Christian Academy 40 — The Golden Eagles set up an all local rematch with host Farrell by pulling away in the fourth quarter in a tight battle.
For KC, Gerald Zachar and Sam Crow each scored 13 points to pace the victory, Brown had 14 and Southerner 12 for Imani.
Brookfield boys win season-opener against Py Valley
It was a typical season-opener: Too many turnovers, some questionable shot selection, and careless personal fouls. But for Brookfield High boys’ bench boss Bill Kovach, “ ... always happy with a win.”
The Warriors were 7-for-10 from the free-throw line during the 4th frame, and held off Pymatuning Valley, 59-48, Tuesday night.
Hornets advance to semis with win over Central
DuBOIS, PA. — Some people could say the “third time is a charm.” For the Hickory High Hornets it was much more than that. In fact, it was glorious.
After losing in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs the last two years, the Hornets finally nailed down a victory with a 37-27 triumph over the Central Dragons from Martinsburg.
Lakeview falls to Clarion Area in PIAA quarterfinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — In the scholastic athletic arena, “mercy rule” — while not politically correct in hyper-sensitive 2013 society — is a relatively accepted term.
Clarion High’s football had mercy-ruled all 13 prior opponents this season. And the Bobcats seemed bent on continuing their commanding conquests during Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round meeting with Lakeview.
Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener
The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving arrives a little later than usual this year. But as holiday traditions go, this one has been pretty productive for Hickory High head football coach Bill Brest.
“My wife always has me put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving ... and the next day, we’ve won. So I’ll be more than happy to help my wife put up the tree this Friday,” Brest related.
During the past 2 years Hickory has won District 10 titles on Thanksgiving weekend. But this year the Hornets harvested their 3rd consecutive crown last week, jettisoning Girard (21-10). Now Hickory (11-1) has a 1 p.m. date in DuBois Saturday against surprising Central-Martinsburg (11-2) in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Smart move by PIAA to schedule games early this weekend
Congratulations to the PIAA for making a good move that helps teams and fans of high school sports.
Wow, I haven’t been able to say that often enough!
But many of the high school football games this coming weekend will be played in the afternoon which is a real plus for traveling on possibly snow-blown highways at this time of the year.
Hornets 3-peat as D-10 champs with win vs. Girard
EDINBORO — When legendary coach Vince Lombardi said “the only good thing that comes from losing is the desire never to lose again,” he could very well have been referencing the future for Coach Bill Brest and his Hickory Hornets.
Since Hickory lost to Sharon, 14-6, in the 2010 District 10 finals in Brest’s first year at the helm of the team, the D-10 Class AA title game has belonged to Hickory. And Saturday afternoon at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, it was no different as the Hornets topped Girard, 21-10 for a third straight crown.
Sailors beat Devils to capture 1st District 10 title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
Hornets seek 3-peat Saturday vs. Girard
Bill Brest ... buffer?
Hickory High’s head football coach has broad shoulders and that’s necessary, because he’s taking on all distractions as his Hornets prepare for Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game.
Hickory (10-1) will attempt to hoist the D-10 trophy for a 3rd consecutive season when the Hornets journey to Girard’s backyard — Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium — to meet the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m.
Hickory rolls past Northwestern in D-10 semifinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — They say that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” You can bet the Northwestern Wildcats are feeling a bit of the latter for the Hickory Hornets!
For a third straight season Hickory eliminated the northerners from the District 10 Class AA playoffs, this time by a 52-14 score in the semifinals Saturday night at Slippery Rock University’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium.
Greenville falls to Girard in D-10 semifinals
ERIE — District 10 was destined for a Class AA championship game between reigning 2-time titlist Hickory and Greenville.
But no one informed the Girard High football team of the plans.
“ … This is pretty cool … I’m pretty fired up about it,” admitted 4th-year Yellow Jackets’ head coach Jim Funk after Girard jolted Greenville, 16-14.
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- Roundup: WM girls beat UC; Sharpsville, KC fall