Big second half helps Serra Catholic soar past Brentwood, set up showdown with Jeannette

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 | 10:52 PM

Serra Catholic led most of the first quarter and again in the second quarter, only to have a late Brentwood flurry in each quarter give the host Spartans a one-point lead.

However, when Serra punched Brentwood early in the third quarter, there was no return run and the Eagles cruised to a 76-60 victory Tuesday night.

The win for Serra Catholic (9-2, 11-9) ended a three-game losing skid and sets up a showdown for first place in the section finale Friday against Jeannette.

“Intensity,” was the one word answer from Serra Catholic coach Justin Walther when asked what the difference was in his team in the third quarter. “We got Jaden (Bristol) off when he hit three threes in a row. That’s what we talked about at halftime, that he has to start taking over.”

Bristol, a senior, scored 34 points in the first meeting between the two teams, a 62-52 victory for the Eagles. However, he had only two points in the first half this time.

Fellow senior Josiah Pais carried the load for Serra Catholic with 10 points in the first quarter while freshman Joey DeMoss got hot with eight of his 10 points in the second quarter for the Eagles to keep the game close until Bristol got untracked.

“Joey can really shoot, and he’s only a freshman,” Walther said. “The last few games, he hasn’t hit one.”

The Eagles defense was also a key, keeping Brentwood leading scorer C.J. Ziegler in check. The senior scored only five points in the first half and had nine points total until he hit two 3-pointers in the final minute of play to give him a team-high 15 points.

“We really get after it on D when we really want to,” Walther said. “We are a very, very good team when we play D and we’re in help position and everything else.”

Trailing 30-29 at the break, Bristol got hot and Serra Catholic came out flying, outscoring Brentwood 28-13 in the third quarter. The onslaught continued in the fourth as the Eagles built their lead to as many as 20 points.

This year’s Eagles team is a lot different than the Serra squad that reached the WPIAL Class 2A title game a year ago.

“They really play hard and give their all for me,” Walther said. “I can’t complain about anything. This has been the most enjoyable season of the four for me at Serra. They really get along.”

The loss ended a five-game win streak for Brentwood (15-5), as the Spartans concluded section play with a 9-3 record.

Serra Catholic trails Jeannette by one game heading into the final night of section play Friday. The Jayhawks crushed the Eagles in the first meeting by 28 points Jan. 14.

“We’ve just got to play,” Walther said. “We let a couple other factors get in the way. It was only a two-point game in the third quarter, then they went on a run and it was lights out.”

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