Latrobe boys basketball survives hard-charging Hempfield

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 | 10:46 PM

Hempfield played about as well as it can play against visiting Latrobe, the No. 1 team in WPIAL Class 6A.

But instead of pulling an upset, the Spartans left upset Tuesday night in a foul-filled, 58-56 loss at Spartans Field House.

Alex Bisignani made two free throws with four-tenths of a second left for the deciding points as the Wildcats (12-2, 5-0) avoided a tight road defeat in Section 3.

With Latrobe in the double-bonus, Marcus McCarthy was whistled for his fifth foul on the deciding play after Bisignani grabbed a rebound on a missed jumper by Reed Fenton.

McCarthy fouled out with a team-high 19 points for the Spartans (7-7, 0-5). He scored 10 in the fourth.

The game matched Hempfield, with the lowest points-allowed average in Class 6A (49.6), against Latrobe, the fourth-highest scoring team in the class (71.5 ppg).

But all the stats didn’t mean much in the controversial final moments.

Fans were buzzing afterwards about whether the final call was a foul , whether it should have been made at that moment or whether contact even happened.

Whatever the case, Latrobe has eight consecutive wins over Hempfield, which has not beaten the Wildcats since Kason Harrell’s senior season.

“It’s hard to lose when (the official) makes a call from halfcourt with point-four left on the clock,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “There was no contact there. He never touched him. It’s tough to lose that way.”

Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel thought the right call was made.

“No doubt in my mind about that,” Wetzel said. “Bis was supposed to miss the second one there. He hadn’t played his best game up to that point but had a great bounce-back.

“We knew this would be a dogfight. It always is when we play them.”

Hempfield had control early, taking a 13-5 lead and holding the advantage until Fenton hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter to make it 18-16.

From there, the lead changed hands six times until Latrobe regained control and built the lead to 12 (46-34) to open the fourth quarter.

The Spartans, though, could not square the circle, despite cutting the margin to two four times inside the final 3:21 and finally tying the Wildcats at 56-56 on two free throws by McCarthy with 18.7 seconds remaining.

McCarthy had scored off a nice feed from Jule Nicholls, and Reed Hipps hit a driving layup to make it 56-54.

“I thought our kids showed a lot of collective poise, and they were outstanding from the foul line,” Wetzel said.

“We had to adjust to the stop-and-starts of this game. The way (Hempfield) made the game choppy with all the substitutions.”

Fenton made two free throws with a minute to go to make it 56-52.

“That hand check to send him to the line there was questionable,” Swan said.

“Reed (Hipps) gets hand-checked for four quarters, and they don’t call it. Do you think we wanted to foul Reed Fenton, one of the best players in the WPIAL, there?”

Bryce Butler led Latrobe with 20 points, and Fenton added 15.

Ethan Jacquet scored all eight of his points in the second half for the Wildcats, who made 17 of 23 free throws.

Hipps added 10 points for Hempfield.

“Give Brad a lot of credit,” Swan said. “He does a great job with that team.

“I can say this: This program does not back down from anybody. We’re not going anywhere.”

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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