Mars bests Chartiers Valley in physical WPIAL Class 5A semifinal

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 | 11:51 PM

With momentum swinging on every second-half possession and fans from both teams screaming and shouting, Chartiers Valley’s 5-foot-9 guard Louis Kearney ran straight into Mars’ 6-foot-6 forward Michael Carmody as the third-quarter buzzer sounded.

Kearney fell on top of Carmody. Players from both benches took to the floor. Fans jumped from their seats. To say the WPIAL Class 5A semifinal game between No. 1 Mars and No. 5 Chartiers Valley was physical would be an understatement.

The Planets’ depth and experience took over and, on the back of Andrew Recchia’s game-high 25 points, Mars managed a tough 53-44 win over Chartiers Valley on Tuesday night in front of a packed house at Fox Chapel.

“The last line of my scouting report said, ‘Expect this game to be hard,’ ” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “I love it when games are like that. I love it when there’s a little physicality with guys bumping each other and everything.”

The win sets up a celestial WPIAL Class 5A championship game between top-seeded and defending Class 5A champion Mars (23-1) and No. 3 Moon (23-1) at 9 p.m. Friday at Petersen Events Center. Moon downed No. 2 Penn Hills, 59-46, to advance. With the loss, Chartiers Valley (18-6) will wait for the PIAA playoffs.

“We had opportunities throughout the game, and I think we played selfish and not team ball like we’re used to and capable of,” Chartiers Valley coach Brandon Sensor said. “At the end, we couldn’t pull it out. We fought hard and that’s a really good team. You got to give them the credit.”

The collision at half-court between Carmody and Kearney was a preview for what was to come in the final quarter. Colts junior forward Marcello Legister cut the Planets’ lead to 39-38 with a basket and foul to open the final frame and send the Colts fans into a frenzy. Recchia came right back down the floor and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to extend Mars’ lead to 42-38.

“When you’re an experienced team and when you have an experienced guard and experienced big man, we were able to take it through the game and win,” said Recchia, a Shippensburg recruit. “It was a battle when it comes down to it. It was bumping, bruising, going to the hole sometimes and getting a no-call, people diving on the ground. You got to expect it. It was a WPIAL semifinal game.”

The Planets lost their “big man” when Carmody fouled out with 3:52 remaining, sending the Chartiers Valley fans into another frenzy. Carmody finished the game with 13 points.

“(Fouling out) was something I didn’t think would happen during the game,” Michael Carmody said. “It was hard to watch my team, but we got the job done and that’s awesome for everyone that was on the floor.”

With Carmody out, the Colts went on a mini 4-0 run on back-to-back baskets by senior Joe Pipilo to get within 45-42.

“I thought (Pipilo) had a good game and had some key shots for us,” Sensor said. “He’s done that all year for us, and I know that he wishes he had a better game, as do a bunch of our guys.”

Pipilo finished with 11 points, with six coming in the fourth quarter. Recchia, once again, came back down the floor and added a pull-up jumper to quiet the crowd and extend Mars’ lead to 47-42 . Senior Khori Fusco swished two free throws with just over a minute remaining to send the Chartiers Valley faithful to the doors early.

“I don’t think it could feel any better than last year but this year, it might feel a little bit better with all of the doubt,” Recchia said.

Both teams started off sluggish and out of character to start the game. Mars had sloppy turnovers, and the Colts couldn’t connect from the free-throw line, going 1 of 8. Chartiers Valley held a 9-7 lead at the first-quarter buzzer.

The second quarter was all Carmody. He helped pace the Mars offense while the Planets shooters found their strokes. Recchia drained his first 3-pointer of the game to give Mars a 23-20 lead at halftime.

“Mike (Carmody) was kind of keeping us in the game in first half,” Recchia said.

Recchia drove the lane early in the third quarter to give the Planets the lead for good at 25-23.

Brayden Reynolds led Chartiers Valley with 17 points.

“You’re fighting to get to the Pete, and this is what these kids dream about doing and it shouldn’t be any other way,” coach Carmody said. “We did a great job, and I credit it that to experience.”

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