Leechburg tops St. Joseph in another high-scoring Section 3-1A matchup

Friday, February 12, 2021 | 9:13 PM

Anytime Leechburg’s Dylan Cook and St. Joseph’s Andrew Sullivan step onto the court, expect a high-scoring effort.

When the teams faced off earlier this year, Cook scored 36 points and Sullivan 32, but the Blue Devils came away with a six-point victory as the two teams combined for 178 points.

Friday was no different when the teams met at St. Joseph for their second Section 3-1A matchup of the season.

Sullivan scored a game-high 36 points for the Spartans (4-5, 5-7), but Cook countered with 31 and the Blue Devils (5-3, 4-3) earned an 82-69 win.

“We’re a very young team, so confidence goes up and down throughout the year with wins and losses,” Cook said. “Those two losses to Eden (Christian), we had kind of lowered our confidence a little. We knew St. Joe’s was a good team, and the last time it was in the 80s on both sides. So it was fun to come here and pull one here.”

Junior forward Eli Rich also scored 25 points for the Blue Devils.

The Spartans jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but Leechburg responded with an 8-0 run that allowed them to hold the lead for good.

“I think the no JV game tonight, the earlier start, it just took us a little longer to get loose,” Cook said. “Us varsity guys aren’t used to just playing right away, so it just took us a few minutes to get going.”

Sullivan responded and scored 11 of St. Joseph’s 13 points in the first quarter as they cut Leechburg’s lead to 18-13 by the end of the quarter.

The teams battled back and forth through the second quarter, and Leechburg took a 10-point lead into halftime.

Out of the break, St. Joseph started to find a rhythm and picked away at Leechburg’s lead. They started the half on a 7-4 run, and midway through the third quarter, they cut the lead to three after Hayden Mallin and Rylan Zale hit back-to-back 3-pointers.

But the Blue Devils started to slow it down and built their lead to eight points going into the fourth.

“When we make a couple trips and we don’t run what we want to run, then we have to slow it down, and we did that,” Leechburg coach Damian Davies said. “I think that was the key there. We just wanted to work the ball down to Eli. When you have a 6-5 guy down there, you want to take advantage.”

Although they were behind, the Spartans continued to battle through the fourth quarter. Sullivan scored 11 of his 36 points in the final eight minutes, but the Spartans couldn’t get within striking distance.

Cook closed it out at the free-throw line, hitting 9 of 11 attempts.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I’m usually not the best free-throw shooter on the team so we usually try to keep it away from me,” Cook said with a laugh. “But this year I’ve been shooting a little bit better, so I was confident stepping to the line.”

Sophomore Braylan Lovelace added 16 points for the Blue Devils and scored seven of them in the third quarter to help hold off the Spartans.

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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