Mars survives foul trouble to defeat York William Penn in PIAA 2nd round

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 9:10 PM


HOLLIDAYSBURG — Mars coach Rob Carmody wrote one word in bold letters on the whiteboard inside the locker room: Poise.

At that moment Tuesday nigt, the Planets were in terrible foul trouble after a whistle-filled first half and they were upset that the officials were calling offensive fouls one after another.

Khori Fusco had four first-half fouls.

Michael Carmody had three.

The team combined already had a dozen.

“Our poise in adjusting to how the officials call the game wasn’t good enough,” Rob Carmody said. “That’s what caused the problem. It was not the officials. … The officials called the game the way they saw it. It’s our job to adjust to it.”

Eventually, in the second half, the two-time WPIAL champion and last year’s state runner-up found that poise. Andrew Recchia scored 23 points, Brandon Caruso added 18 and Mars overcame its foul trouble to defeat York William Penn, 60-59, in a PIAA Class 5A second-round victory.

Recchia — the hero in the WPIAL finals — went 11 for 12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter including a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds that stretched a one-point lead to three.

“At this point in the season, this is not an excuse business, this is a solution business,” Rob Carmody said. “We’ve played 27 games. We’ve got three guys who played in a state championship. We start three seniors. Find a solution.”

Mars (26-1) will face District 10 champion Meadville (20-6) in a PIAA quarterfinal Friday. A site and time was not yet announced.

York’s Clovis Gallon had a game-tying 3-pointer bounce off the rim in the final seconds and teammate Branden Mutunga scored the put-back at the buzzer for the one-point margin.

York (24-5) was the third-place team from District 3.

“We really didn’t have any poise in the first half,” Fusco said. “We weren’t really being consistent on offense. Defensively, we were lacking awareness. We weren’t really talking.”

The teams combined for 25 first-half fouls including 12 against Mars. However, the Planets cut that number to seven in the second half while York was whistled for 16 more.

Gallon, Edward Minter and Marquise McClean scored 10 points apiece for York, but Minter fouled out with 4:25 left and McClean collected his fifth foul at the 2:59 mark.

The officials called 48 fouls.

“Obviously, the refs had some ticky-tack fouls,” Caruso said. “Going into half I said to our guys, we’ve got them figured out now. We know not to just run into people. Be more careful.”

Mars went 19 for 22 from the foul line in the second half. York made 4 of 6.

“The ref said to me, if he’s in position, we’re going to call (the charge) every time,” Caruso said.

Mars trailed 26-22 at halftime and headed to the locker room with two starters on a short path to fouling out. Carmody picked up his fourth foul less than a minute after halftime, but finished without fouling out. Fusco survived with four fouls until the final minute of the fourth quarter.

The Planets protected both. Carmody played limited minutes while Fusco switched defensive assignments. In their place, Mars relied heavily on freshman Zach Schlegel and sophomore Mihali Sfanos, two young guards off the bench.

“To have Mihali and Zach step up is huge,” Recchia said. “That’s a freshman and a sophomore playing significant minutes in the state playoffs. That’s gigantic and they both played really well. I’m proud of them.”

Mars outscored York, 20-12, in the third. With York leading 35-32, Mars sparked a 10-2 run with seven points from Fusco and a go-ahead 3-pointer from Recchia with 1:50 left in the quarter.

Mars led 42-39 after three.

York briefly retook a one-point lead late in the fourth on a put-back basket by Mutunga with 2:10 left. Mars answered with four consecutive free throws by Recchia — two at 1:57 and two more at 1:26 – to lead 54-51.

After a jumper by Gallon that cut the margin to one, Michael Carmody added a layup and foul shot to lead 57-53 with 52 seconds left.

The lead was back down to one when Recchia stepped to the line with 4.4 seconds left and sank two free throws.

“It was not a matter of ‘if’ Andrew makes this,” Rob Carmody said. “He’s proven time and time again that he’s going to make big shots.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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