Four-point play helps No. 4 Mt. Lebanon hold off Peters Township

By: HSSN Staff
Friday, January 11, 2019 | 10:06 PM

Fouling a 3-point shooter is never ideal — particularly when the shot goes in.

Mt. Lebanon junior Blaine Gartley took advantage as he drained a fourth-quarter 3-pointer and the ensuing free throw as the fourth-ranked Blue Devils held off Peters Township, 61-49, on Friday in Section 2-6A action at Mt. Lebanon.

“I knew we needed a shot,” Gartley said. “I just shot it, got fouled and it went in.”

That the Blue Devils needed a shot was an understatement. Mt. Lebanon in the third quarter had missed a half-dozen 3-pointers to squander a double-digit lead and trail for the first time.

But Gartley’s four-point play put Lebo back up by 10 with 6:06 to play, and the Blue Devils’ lead never shrank below six points the rest of the way.

“We just couldn’t knock down shots, (but) we kept shooting them and they eventually fell in,” Gartley said. “We’ve been in a couple close games. We lost in a buzzer-beater down in Missouri (73-71 to Ohio’s Harvest Prep), but we made free throws and called it a game.”

Mt. Lebanon (4-0, 12-2) has won five straight since that loss to Harvest Prep in late December, and the Blue Devils are tied with unbeaten Upper St. Clair for the section lead.

Peters Township (2-2, 9-3) saw its seven-game winning streak snapped.

“I really like our team; we battled,” PT coach Gary Goga said. “We have six section games left. We’ve got to take care of business and, hopefully, when it’s done the cards fall in place and we get a spot.”

Mt. Lebanon’s Jake Hoffman led all scorers with 20 points, and Gartley finished with 13. That duo scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils turned a 43-40 lead into a 50-40 advantage.

“I was happy, and we’re growing up,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David said. “We’re getting better and better, and getting guys with more and more experience, and I was happy.”

Mt. Lebo led 33-27 to open the third, but Peters Township embarked on an 11-2 as the Blue Devils went cold from the floor. A Dax Ploskina basket gave the Indians their first lead, 36-35, with 4:48 to go in the third.

“We had that nice run in the third quarter and I thought we were rolling, but things flipped back over,” Goga said. “That’s the way things went.”

Indeed, the Blue Devils reclaimed the lead with a pair of baskets inside the paint, and took a 43-40 advantage into the fourth.

“As bad as we shot, it could have been worse,” David said. “I was happy with my guys and I thought we played really hard and made some plays at the end of the game to really separate us.”

Mt. Lebanon hit four first-quarter 3-pointers, and its full-court press gave Peters Township trouble as the Blue Devils opened up a 20-12 lead after eight minutes.

“Turnovers have been hurting us at times, but I thought we showed some good signs,” Goga said. “We’re a work in progress.”

The Blue Devils have little time to celebrate, with Upper St. Clair coming up Tuesday. No. 2 USC (4-0, 13-0) stayed unbeaten with a 68-64 victory over Bethel Park on Friday.

“We prepare for those games by playing tough games,” David said. “It’s going to be a great environment and I’m looking forward to it. It should be a wonderful night of high school basketball.”

Jesse Geleynse is a freelance writer.

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