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PIAA CLASS A WESTERN FINAL Kennedy stands in Union's way

By Brian Richesson

Friday, March 21, 2003

The winner advances to the state championship game on Friday.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Life has been good to Mark Stanley.
His Union High boys basketball team is one win from playing for a PIAA Class A state championship, and his wife, Beth, is pregnant with the couple's first child.
Does it get any better than that?
"Everyone tells me the ride we've been on is going to be kicked up even higher" once the baby is born, said Stanley, 37.
"I'm looking forward to that, but I don't know if I can stand being this high for this long."
Next challenge
That feeling can be extended tonight if Union (19-10) can add one more win to its already-satisfying season.
The Scotties will play Kennedy Catholic (25-5), which is seeking its sixth straight trip to Hershey, at 7 p.m. at Sharon High School.
"We've been further than any [Union] team, and I still don't have a nervous group. They're enjoying the ride," said Stanley, a 1984 Union High graduate in his fourth season as coach.
"I have a loose group," he added. "They're not worried about, 'Hey, this is the West finals.' They look at every game as just another game."
Because Union was hit hard by last year's graduation, Stanley wasn't expecting a run like this yet. Maybe next season.
But players such as Damian Cassano, Craig Hannon, Jeff Nero, Bob Bondi, Mike Mukaabya and Steve Brenner were impatient enough to make it happen this season.
"I don't think anybody expected us to be here," Stanley said. "But they've all accepted their roles. Nobody is jealous of anybody else, and they do what they have to do."
If the Scotties can knock Kennedy Catholic off its familiar path, they will travel the sweet road to Hershey, where they will play Scotland School or Muncy in the state title game Friday.
In that case, Stanley might be missing his biggest fan.
"I'm probably not going to go," said Mrs. Stanley, who is due April 16, of a possible trip to Hershey. "My doctor said it might be a good idea if I stay close to home.
"It'd be better if I'm here; [Mark] can concentrate on what he needs to do."
Spoken like a coach's wife.
"I keep telling her to hold off," Stanley said. "If we would get to Hershey, she might have to do all the work by herself.
"But I hope that's not the case."