Leechburg boys hold off Jeannette in section thriller

Tuesday, December 20, 2022 | 10:17 PM

In a boys basketball game that looked like Leechburg would win easily, Jeannette turned it into a dogfight.

However, Leechburg did the little things down the stretch and capitalized on Jayhawks miscues during the final two minutes, pulling out a thrilling 60-56 victory Tuesday in Section 3-2A.

Marcus Cleveland scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Blue Devils (1-0, 4-4). Tyler Foley chipped in with 14 points, helping Leechburg prevail after leading scorer and rebounder Owen McDermott left in the second quarter with a leg injury.

“We had guys step up big time with Owen on the bench,” Leechburg coach Damian Davies said. “Two sophomores (Brady Rollinger and Jayden Floyd) played the entire second half.”

Rollinger hit two clutch free throws with 13.1 seconds to secure the victory.

Jeannette (1-1, 5-2) had a chance to take control of the game late. Leading 56-55, the Jayhawks missed a layup, took a poor shot and turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes.

“We had our opportunities and didn’t capitalize,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “We fought and clawed our way back from a big hole. You can’t miss opportunities against a good team.”

Leechburg used a 13-0 run in the first quarter to grab a 17-5 lead. It led 22-9 after a quarter.

Jeannette started chipping awayand pulled to within 34-30 at halftime as Isaiah Mallich scored eight points in the second quarter. He and Jalen Bass led the Jayhawks with 15 points apiece.

“You can’t allow 22 points in the first quarter,” Batts said. “And you can’t lose games at home. We have to learn to protect the ball better and take better shots. Not all open shots are good ones.”

The game went back and forth into the fourth quarter. Mallich’s 3-pointer gave Jeannette a 54-53 lead, and Bass’ putback made it 56-55.

But Leechburg got to the foul line by driving to the basket. It made 14 of 22 free throws compared to Jeannette 7 of 10.

“They got to the rim, and we didn’t,” Batts said. “That’s the difference.”

Davies said any road win is big, especially at Jeannette.

“Moving up from Class A, we didn’t know what to expect,” Davies said. “They play a lot of zone in Class A. Jeannette played man, and we have the players who can get up and down the court.

“We had a tough nonsection schedule, and it made us tougher for these types of game. We met the challenge against Jeannette.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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