Jake DiMichele carries OLSH past Portage into state championship game

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 | 9:16 PM

Jake DiMichele can still remember the exact day OLSH was eliminated the last time they made the state semifinals.

“It was March 19, 2019,” he said. “I remember seeing everyone in the locker room after the game and seeing my brother (Daren). It was his last high school game, and I wish I would’ve done more that day. So, I knew if we got back, I had to play well.”

DiMichele certainly lived up to his promise to himself.

He scored a game-high 34 points to help the Chargers clinch their spot in Hershey with a 74-50 win over District 6 champion Portage in the PIAA Class 2A boys basketball semifinals Tuesday night at Moon.

OLSH (23-0) will play District 12 champion Constitution (14-6) at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Giant Center in Hershey for a state title. It’s a rematch of the 2018 Class 2A final, which Constitution won, 81-71.

“Any time you can get to Hershey is special,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “I know we’ve won every game, but we don’t look at it that way. I know it’s cliché, but we do take it one game at a time.”

DiMichele had 21 points in the first half, including 14 in the second quarter. After Portage took a brief 23-20 lead midway through the second, DiMichele reeled off back to back 3-pointers and followed with a layup off a turnover for his own personal 8-0 run. He carried that over into the third quarter and at one point scored 18 of 23 points for OLSH to keep his team in the lead.

“I knew we needed a jolt,” DiMichele said. “I know I can score in bunches, but I have to credit all of my teammates. They found me on the break open or for 3-pointers and later in the second half, they got it going and started to step up scoring.”

OLSH won its 22nd game in a row by double-digits, but that wasn’t indicative of how tight the first three quarters were.

Portage (21-3) stayed within eight points for the majority of the first half and came out in the third quarter on an 8-2 run to tie the game 37-37. The Mustangs were only able to muster three more points in the quarter, however, and the Chargers eventually pulled away.

“We knew we could play with them,” Portage coach Travis Kargo said. “They got the lead to double digits (in the fourth) and spread the floor out and we had to foul them. We sent them to the free-throw line an inordinate amount of times and to their credit, they made them. I think they know that they played a really good team tonight. I think we showed that and the final score isn’t indicative of how this game was.”

OLSH was 28 for 37 from the free-throw line and Portage was 6 for 10. Dante Spadafora, playing with a couple of injuries, made 13-of-18 free-throw attempts and had 15 points.

“I’m surprised Dante even played,” Rodriguez said. “In the last game against Karns City, he hurt his knee and his heel. He didn’t practice yesterday. He got therapy on it last night and has some more therapy today, but he wasn’t coming off the floor. He’s a warrior. He could not shoot tonight, but he shot his foul shots flat footed tonight and made a bunch.”

Dawson Summers had 12 points for the Chargers, and Bryson Kirschner scored 10. Kaden Claar led Portage with 19 points, and Preston Rainey scored 12.

The game was moved to Moon from OLSH at the last minute due to a water-main break Tuesday, but tipoff was not delayed.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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