Bethel Park beats buzzer, gets past South Fayette in Class 5A slugfest

Monday, February 19, 2024 | 11:10 PM

Bethel Park relied on various defenses Monday night to slow down a South Fayette team that had been averaging nearly 60 points per game this season.

However, in the end of what felt like a heavyweight boxing championship rather than a WPIAL boys basketball Class 5A first-round playoff game, the Black Hawks scored on a gorgeous offensive play to upset the No. 6 Lions, 34-32.

“Give (South Fayette)a lot of credit,” Bethel Park coach Dante Calabria said. “As I watched them on film, I knew coming in, they would play as hard as they can. They’re a tough team to compete with and fortunately we were able to come out and match them punch for punch and at the end, make a play that made the difference. It was nip and tuck the whole way and it was a great game.”

The play that made the difference was a drive from the top of the key with seconds remaining by Bethel Park senior Shawn Davis. He spun around a defender in the paint and laid the ball up off the glass and in as time expired to give the Black Hawks the win.

Was that the play the Hawks were looking for?

“If I tell you yes, I’m lying,” Calabria said. “I wanted to get into a set, but once the clock got under 10, they did a good job of not letting us get the ball in to our point guard, but that’s the advantage of having Shawn because he can handle the ball and create, and fortunately this time, he finished right at the buzzer. It was a perfect ending to a tough, tough game.”

Davis’ heroics would have never had happened if not for a key defensive play by another BP senior, Nick Brown.

Brown pinned South Fayette senior Michael Plasko near the sidelines and midcourt with about 15 seconds remaining in a tied game. As Plasko tried to squeeze past Brown, he stepped on the sideline just as Lions coach Dave Mislan started requesting a timeout.

“Nick’s a tough kid and he’s been doing that for us all year,” Calabria said. “I can’t ask more of him. He’s our guy, he’s our catalyst, he gets us into what we want to get into, and on the defensive end, he gets into the other team’s point guard or a lot of times, the other team’s best player.”

The game was a close, physical battle throughout with both teams making their share of mistakes with the basketball thanks largely to the half-court defense the Black Hawks and Lions played.

South Fayette was held to 28 points under its average thanks to a Bethel Park zone defense that kept changing and keeping the host Lions on their heels, especially in the first half.

“We we’re doing a 1-2-2 and a 2-3 zone and sometimes we would morph into the man-to-man once the ball moves into certain areas,” Calabria said. “We could have three different defenses in one possession. I ask a lot of these kids and these guys work hard.”

The game stayed tight throughout. South Fayette led by one after one quarter, the game was tied at halftime, and Bethel Park had a one-point advantage after three quarters.

The largest lead for either team came on a Davis bucket with five minutes left to give the Black Hawks a six-point advantage, 31-25.

The Lions scored the next seven points to take a one-point lead before a Davis free throw tied the game 32-32 and set the stage for a dramatic finish.

The only player in double-digit scoring for either team was Lions junior Gavin Orosz, who had a game-high 11 points with two 3-pointers. South Fayette ends its season with an overall record of 14-9.

Davis led Bethel Park with nine points while junior Tanner Pfeuffer had eight points.

No. 11 Bethel Park snapped a three-game losing skid and improved to 12-11 as it advances to play No. 3 Shaler in the 5A quarterfinals Thursday.

“It’s the biggest win so far. Now we have to go win another one and go one by one,” Calabria, the second-year coach, said. “We’re the underdog, so we just have to come out and play with the same energy and same intensity that we’re playing with right now.”

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