No. 2 Penn Hills boys edge Woodland Hills in Setion 3-6A showdown
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, January 13, 2018 | 12:06 AM
With 52 seconds left, Penn Hills' double-digit lead was down to three and its leading scorer was on the bench with five fouls.
But Woodland Hills' late rally ended there.
Penn Hills senior Corey Fulton converted eight of nine free throws in the fourth quarter with five in the final 30 seconds to defeat Woodland Hills, 68-60, in a matchup of highly ranked section rivals.
Fulton made two free throws with 30.6 seconds left, made two more at 20.2 and added another just before the buzzer.
“I told him you need to now take control,” Penn Hills coach Dan DeRose told TribLive HSSN broadcasters. “Make sure you get the ball, you're our best free throw shooter. Take care of the ball, don't do anything stupid, get to the free throw line and finish the game.”
Fulton finished with 19 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
Woodland Hills was ready to climb out of the 16-point hole it dug itself with early turnovers and missed shots. Behind 21 points from Amante Britt, Woodland Hills' rally made it 63-60 with 52.5 seconds left.
Penn Hills had led 45-29 late in the third.
“When you turn it over 11 times in the first half, that's hard to come back from,” Woodland Hills coach Odell Miller said. “We almost pulled it off.”
The victory keeps No. 2-ranked Penn Hills (14-0, 6-0) undefeated and now alone atop the Section 3-6A standings. Third-ranked Woodland Hills (10-2, 5-1) trails by one game.
The teams rematch Feb. 6 at Woodland Hills.
Penn Hills athletic director Stephanie Strauss said DeRose and his players were unavailable for post-game interviews, but DeRose did speak with TribLive HSSN broadcasters. DeRose started this season with a four-game suspension mandated by the WPIAL, in part for critical post-game comments made after a game last season.
Daivon Stephens led Penn Hills with 21 points but fouled out with 1:11 left on an offensive foul. He helped the Indians build a 32-21 halftime lead.
Woodland Hills had started cold (5 for 21 shooting in the first half) and Britt was no exception. He missed seven of his first eight shots and reached halftime with just four points.
Britt found his touch in the second half, made 6 of 10 attempts and finished with 21 points.
The senior guard ignited Woodland Hills' rally with consecutive 3-pointers to end the third quarter on 12-0 run. Britt made four 3s overall. Teammate Olson Nicholson added 11 points, including nine in the fourth quarter as the shots started to fall.
“They did exactly what I thought they would do,” Miller said of Penn Hills' defense. “They came out, they pressured us. We like to run but we were a little bit too fast. I kept trying to tell my guys, look, we need to settle down a little bit right now. We're getting all the way to the basket and then you're missing the layup because you're rushing so much.”
Trailing 62-50 with 4 minutes left, Britt and Nicholson sparked a 10-1 run. When Britt made one of two free throws with 52.5 seconds left, Penn Hills' lead was only 63-60.
Fulton's free throws kept Penn Hills ahead. Fouled three times in the final 30 seconds, Fulton made five of six free throw attempts. Woodland Hills turned the ball over twice in between.
“We're going to see them again,” Miller said. “My team is very confident that we can beat them, but they own it right now.”