Early surge in 3rd quarter carries Mt. Lebanon boys past Hempfield in Class 6A

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 | 9:56 PM

After weathering a second-quarter comeback attempt by 13th-seeded Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon pulled away from the Spartans for the second time this season.

After leading seeing a 15-point first-half lead whittled to six toward the end, Mt. Lebanon got a big three from senior guard Zac D’Alesandro to start the third quarter and didn’t look back on its way to a 75-51 victory in a WPIAL Class 6A first-round Tuesday night at Mt. Lebanon High School.

The Blue Devils outscored Hempfield, 25-11, in the third quarter before coasting to the finish.

“First-round wins can be the hardest sometimes. We came out playing really well, and we fell a little bit in the second quarter,” Blue Devils coach Joe David said. “I’m happy with the win. Any playoff win is a wonderful win whether its two or 22 points.”

After allowing Mt. Lebanon to go on a 13-0 run near the end of the first quarter, Hempfield trailed 20-7 after the first eight minutes but started to chip away a few minutes into the third. Senior forward Sean Gordon scored the first seven points for the Spartans before getting some second-quarter help from Harrison Bowers, who scored eight of his 18 points in the second.

Hempfield managed to get it from 26-11 to 28-22 toward the end of the half but never got closer.

“We dug ourselves a big hole early with turnovers, but to walk down the steps at halftime down 30-22, we were really happy and pleased to be in it,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “Give Mt. Lebanon credit. They turned us over, and those turnovers led to easy baskets and the game got away from us.”

D’Alesandro’s 3-pointer helped spark the Blue Devils balloon their lead 50-25. David said his team just needed to step on the gas in the early portion of the third quarter.

“This is a team that if you leave them in the game, they’ll get excited,” he said. “We had to try to put them away if we could. Zac hit that three, and the next time you looked up it was 17 or 18 and we took it from there.”

Of the 25 third-quarter points for the Blue Devils, eight came from D’Alesandro, who finished with 15; four came from Christian Powers, who ended up with 21 after a 10-point fourth; five were added by Christian Mallon, who finished with 16; and four came from Joey Peters, who finished with six after some foul trouble. Lucas Garafoli, a junior, scored his only two points of the game in the third as well.

In all, nine Blue Devils got on the scoresheet.

“That’s who we are. We don’t have a go-to guy,” David said. “On any given night anyone can lead us and it’s kind of nice that way.”

Hempfield was led by Gordon’s 20 points and got 18 points from Harrison Sowers. The junior hit four times from beyond the arc. The Spartans’ season comes to an end at 7-16.

“That team’s hard to practice for and play against,” Swan said. “All of our seniors gave us everything they had. We couldn’t ask for a better group of guys, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The Blue Devils advance to play section-foe Upper St. Clair at home Friday night at 7 p.m. in the 6A quarterfinals at 15-8 after the win. Mt. Lebanon lost by two the Panthers on the road before earning a share of the section title with a 41-30 win at home against Upper St. Clair on the final night of section play.

“We played them really well at their place and kind of gave one away,” David said. “We got them here. They’re a very good team with a lot of talent. The atmosphere will be electric, and it’ll make for a nice night here. It’s always better to be at home and it helps we earned the right to do that.”

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