Mars scores 24 consecutive points in WPIAL 5A quarterfinal win over Trinity

Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 8:24 PM

Zac Schlegel and his Mars teammates were reluctant to see the second quarter clock reach zeroes Saturday.

Those eight minutes went by like a blur.

“That was the funnest quarter I’ve ever played,” Schlegel said. “Everybody was hitting shots.”

Everybody wearing white, at least.

For Trinity, the second quarter surely felt like an eternity. Mars made seven 3-pointers and scored 24 consecutive points in the quarter, a dominant run that earned the Planets a 67-55 victory in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

Mars led by 31 points at half, so the clock ran continuously under the mercy rule.

“We really take what we can get,” Cunningham said. “We’re a shooting team.”

Combined, the Planets went 7 for 11 shooting from the arc in the second quarter. Schlegel made three 3s in the quarter, and Bryce Cunningham and Mihali Sfanos made two apiece.

“Everybody wanted to hit a shot,” Schlegel said.

Schlegel led Mars with 20 points and five 3s, Cunningham scored 15 points with three 3s and Sfanos added 10 points with two 3s.

No. 5 seed Mars (16-3) will face No. 1 Chartiers Valley in the semifinals Wednesday.

Mike Dunn scored a game-high 25 points for No. 13 Trinity (10-9), which was coming off an upset win of No. 4 Highlands. However, the Hillers started slowly Saturday and went just 2 for 9 shooting in the second quarter.

“We were hotter than a pistol (against Highlands),” Trinity coach Tim Tessmer said. “We had 10 3s in the first half. This was basically the flip flop of that game.”

All told, Mars outscored Trinity, 27-4, in the second quarter. The Planets held only a six-point lead early in the quarter before they sparked their 24-0 run.

Mars led 19-11 after one quarter and 46-15 at half.

Yet, remarkably, there’s some debate about whether this was the Planets’ best quarter this season. Mars coach Rob Carmody points instead to a quarter against North Hills.

The Planets aren’t a team with a double-double machine in the middle like last year, so they’ve embraced what they are. Schlegel, Mihali Sfanos and Tasso Sfano all shoot better than 40% from 3-point range.

That strategy is a little different than in years past but the results might be the same. The Planets are seeking their fourth consecutive appearance in the WPIAL finals.

“We’re kind of different because Mars always had that big big-man,” said Schlegel, a 5-foot-10 junior. “We’re not huge, but we’re fast and we’ll hit you on defense.”

Three of Mars’ five starters are 5-10 or shorter, with another, Mihali Sfanos, only a little taller at 6-1.

“We are who we are as a team,” Carmody said. “We know that we’re guard oriented. We’ve had stretches when we’ve done good with two guys shooting it well. When Zac, Mihali, Tasso start rolling and then Bryce comes in and gives us a huge spark, you’ve got four guys scoring.”

Carmody’s only complaint was that his players seemed to relax in the second half.

With a running clock, Trinity didn’t have enough time to complete a comeback, but the Hillers narrowed the gap by outscoring Mars, 21-4, in the fourth quarter.

“We talked at halftime, we wished it had been a 28-point game instead of a 30-point game,” Tessmer said. “I knew they were going to come back and have a little bit of resolve. Once you get to the mercy rule, you can’t win the game. There’s nothing you can do.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .

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