Brookville ousts WPIAL champion Ellwood City from PIAA playoffs

Saturday, March 20, 2021 | 4:02 PM

Jace Miner stole the ball on an inbounds play and scored on a layup with 10 seconds remaining, and in the blink of an eye Ellwood City’s magical run came to an end.

Miner’s steal and score proved to be the game-winner as District 9 champion Brookville edged the Wolverines, 62-60, in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday.

The Wolverines inbounded the ball from the sideline near the Brookville bench and Miner picked off the pass and went in uncontested.

“I told the kids it’s not one play or one call that lost us the game,” Wolverines coach Steve Antuono Sr. said. “It’s just disappointing.”

The Raiders advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history and will play either District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle or District 10 champion Franklin on Tuesday.

Miner’s final bucket capped off a wild final minute where both teams turned the ball over multiple times. Prior to Miner’s steal Brookville threw an errant pass out of bounds.

“When we threw that one away I thought we were going to overtime,” Raiders coach Dalton Park said. “But I saw Jace creeping up and he’s done that all year. He’s really quick. I could coach another 20 years and probably never have a player that plays defense like he does again. His motor never stops.”

In Ellwood City’s run as a No. 11 seed to the WPIAL championship, the Wolverines played in four close games; Saturday’s PIAA opener was no different.

The two teams exchanged the lead six times in the fourth quarter, and the entire game was played within six points.

Steve Antuono Jr. connected on a turnaround 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to give the Wolverines their first lead since early in the second at 50-49. But every time the Wolverines went ahead Miner had an answer.

Miner, a Wichita State baseball recruit, scored 11 of his game-high 28 points in the final frame. He penetrated the lane on several occasions and made several acrobatic shots around the rim.

“(Miner) is a load,” Antuono Sr. said. “We saw him on tape and he’s even better in person. He’s so athletic and long and he gets to the rim. We tried three different things to not let him get there and he just got there. He can elevate and finish awkwardly.”

Joe Roth, fresh off winning state gold in the 200 relay with his brother Alexander and silver in the 100 backstroke Friday at the PIAA swimming championships, kept the Wolverines within striking distance in the first half, scoring 17 of his 22 points.

He had a thunderous dunk in the final 30 seconds of the second quarter that cut Brookville’s lead to 31-29 going into halftime.

The Raiders doubled Joe Roth for the majority of the second half.

“Late in the first half we switched defenders on him and that helped a little bit, but in the second half we designated guards to drop and help,” Park said. “Sometimes they dropped when they were on the opposite block when they shouldn’t have and he made some nice passes. He sees the floor really well. He made a great pass to (Ryan Gibbons) for a score when we doubled him. He’s a really good player.”

Alexander Roth and Antuono Jr. had strong second half performances. Alexander scored 10 of his 14 points and Antuono Jr. had 12 of his 18 points in the final two quarters.

It was an abrupt ending to a history-making season for the Wolverines, who won their first WPIAL title. In time Antuono Sr. said his players will look back on this season and have plenty of fond memories for life.

“When they open their (WPIAL championship) jewelry at the banquet they’ll be happy,” Antuono Sr. said. “I told them chins up all the way. It’s going to sting. There’s no doubt about that. I’m just blessed to have such a great support system here and great families. These are great kids. It’s a special group.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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