Jeannette stops Serra Catholic, takes section title

Friday, February 7, 2020 | 11:18 PM

Jeannette won the battle on the glass and made its free throws down the stretch Friday night, holding on for a 56-53 victory over Serra Catholic to become the outright champion of Section 2-2A.

A potential game tying 3-pointer by the Eagles’ Jayden Mertz with 10 seconds remaining just missed.

The game featured intense, competitive high-energy basketball. Jeannette coach Adrian Batts was expecting it to take longer than 32 minutes to decide.

“I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Serra has some good players and they play well on their home floor,” said Batts. “I thought the game was going to go to overtime. Our guys were expecting to play 32-plus minutes.”

It was a disappointing end to the section slate for Serra Catholic coach Justin Walther, whose team had trouble knocking down shots and keeping the foot down after a fast start.

“When we were up 20-12, we just slowed down instead of getting our motors going,” said a dejected Walther. “It just became a defensive struggle. But we dictated that ourselves in how slow and methodical we were playing on offense. We were not getting anything and we were standing around a lot too.”

The way the game started, it appeared it was headed towards a shootout. A quick basket by senior Dalton Dilts off a steal by Mertz got the home crowd going. Down 6-5, Serra went on a 7-0 run to go up by six.

Freshman Elijah Ward entered the game for the Eagles and immediately scored. He went on to score six of Serra’s final eight points in the quarter. The Eagles’ 20-12 lead was trimmed to three before the end of the first on a basket from the Jayhawks’ Keith Rockmore and a trey from Jackson Pruitt.

Pruitt led Jeannette with 20 points. Rockmore finished with 12.

Ward started off the Serra Catholic (11-10, 9-3) scoring in the second quarter with a trey of his own. It gave the hosts a 23-19 lead with 6:26 to go in the half. However, the Eagles made only one more field goal the rest of the half and Jeannette (15-7, 11-1) outscored them, 10-4. As a result, the Jayhawks led 29-27 at halftime.

Serra came out in the third quarter with a big lineup in an effort to help out on the boards.

“We got outrebounded in the first half and we were trying to get us back into the rebounding game,” said Walther. “Then we got outrebounded in the second half too. That was the difference in the game. We are usually the team outrebounding our opponent. Tonight, they outrebounded us.”

Josiah Pais had 10 rebounds and five blocks. However, it was not enough as Rockmore and Pruitt had eight boards each and Anton Good and Zach Cruthman each had six.

Another difference in the game was free throw shooting, which picked up big time in the second half. After the two teams combined to shoot only seven free throws in the first half, the Jayhawks ended up shooting 29. Serra Catholic only shot nine.

Alex Glumac and Jayden Bristol finally broke through with a couple threes for Serra, making it a two-point game at 49-47 with 1:25 remaining. However, Jeannette went 7 of 8 at the charity stripe down the stretch to secure the win.

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