Leechburg takes advantage of runs to secure 1st-round victory

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 | 8:13 PM

Basketball is a game of runs, and when the Leechburg boys team has gotten hot this season, it has been tough to beat.

The Blue Devils took advantage of unanswered runs of 13 and 16 points between the first and second quarter Tuesday to jump out to a 30-point halftime lead and never looked back.

Behind 20 points from Dylan Cook, 19 from Braylan Lovelace and 18 from Eli Rich, No. 6 Leechburg (8-4) cruised to an 84-37 victory over No. 11 Mapletown (4-9) in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

“We know, especially the guys that have been playing for a long time, that basketball is a game of runs,” Cook said. “If you put together a long run, you have a good chance of winning, and in that second quarter we just shut them down.”

Leechburg outscored Mapletown 33-7 in the second quarter. Cook scored six and Lovelace scored four, but Rich took over with 10, including a pair of 3-pointers that helped Leechburg pull away.

“We were able to just utilize our big man, we had Eli there and things just seemed to be working,” Leechburg coach Damian Davies said.

“We’re just about creating runs for ourselves, and we might not get it right away — like that first quarter we missed some baskets and threw the ball around a little bit — but we are just going to try and keep doing that until we get our run.”

Leechburg scored the first four points of the game, but the Maples stayed close tied it 10-10 before Leechburg went on its first big run.

After the slow start, the Blue Devils finally started to find a rhythm for themselves and took advantage. They created turnovers and turned them into easy baskets at the other end and never took their foot off the gas as they earned their first playoff win in two years.

“We pressured them, and we knew that other teams had success trapping them earlier in the year,” Cook said. “We had success with that tonight.”

By the end of the third quarter, Leechburg had built a 42-point lead and outscored Mapletown, 12-7, in the final frame to secure the victory.

“We knew it was the playoffs, and anything could happen,” Cook said. “So we just kept our foot on the gas. Even when we got some of the younger guys in off the bench, we had that same intensity, from the starters to the eighth man, that’s what we want to do, especially in the playoffs.”

Sophomore guard Landan Stevenson led the Maples with 15 points.

With their win Tuesday, the Blue Devils set up another game against Section 3-A opponent and No. 3 Eden Christian on Friday.

Eden Christian swept the two-game regular-season series. They won by 13 points the first time and by eight the second time.

“They are good. They have a lot of good players. The Manges brothers are awesome, and they are incredibly athletic and well coached,” Davies said. “I’m sure they’ll have us scouted to a T. I think it’s hard to play a team three times.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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