Beaver Falls Goes From Silver to Gold

Friday, February 26, 2016 | 11:10 PM

Last year, Beaver Falls lost the Class AAA Championship Game on a last-second shot. This year, the Tigers left no doubt, as they took control early, and secured a 56-45 victory against Highlands at the Petersen Events Center to capture the tenth WPIAL championship in school history.

The Tigers won their first championship since capturing back-to-back crowns in 2012 and 2013. Leading the way for Beaver Falls was Josh Creach, the Tigers’ 6-foot-7 junior guard, who scored a game-high 17 points and collected 17 rebounds.

In the opening stages of the contest, the teams exchanged baskets, including a pair of 3-pointers by the Golden Rams. Those shots, by Lavontae Martin and Ryan Boda, proved to be the only points for Highlands in the frame, as the Tigers scored the next 11 to gain a 15-6 lead after the first quarter.

Beaver Falls extended its run to 13-0 to begin the second quarter, until Brayden Thimons hit a layup to end the Tigers’ streak. However, Beaver Falls again had the better of the play in the stanza, as 6-foot-5 junior Donovan Jeter notched seven points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer just seconds before the halftime buzzer. Jeter’s late bucket extended the Tigers’ advantage to 31-17 at the break, offsetting Mitch Dezort’s five-point quarter for Highlands.

The Golden Rams displayed their resiliency to open the second half, as Highlands scored the first six points to pull within eight, 31-23. Jamison Nee, playing his senior year with Highlands after an impressive stint with Vincentian Academy, scored a reverse layup, and Dezort immediately stole the inbounds pass and finished at the rim.

That surge was the closest Highlands would get in the second half, though, as the Tigers quickly extended their lead back to double digit. Creach and Bryce Strati made the only field goals of the frame for Beaver Falls, but the defense of the Tigers kept Highlands from trimming into its deficit.

To begin the fourth quarter, Jeter twice connected on beautiful passes to Malik Shepherd for layups to extend the Beaver Falls edge to 44-28. While Highlands pulled within 10 midway through the frame, Creach converted an and-one to dash any comeback hopes for the Golden Rams. Creach capped off his stellar performance by making two foul shots in the closing moments to seal the victory.

In addition to Creach’s monster performance, Shepherd netted 11 points, while Jeter contributed seven points and 16 rebounds. Dezort paced Highlands with 11 points, while Martin added nine.

The game was temporarily halted early in the third quarter when a Highlands scorekeeper suffered a medical emergency near the team’s bench. He was responsive, however, and was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.

Both teams will next turn their sights to the PIAA postseason, which begins next weekend. Beaver Falls will face the WPIAL’s seventh and final representative, Steel Valley, while Highlands will square off against either Hollidaysburg or Somerset.

Score by Quarter:

Highlands Golden Rams 6 – 11 – 11 – 17 = 45
Beaver Falls Tigers 15 – 16 – 9 – 16 = 56


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