Mars uses near-perfect 2nd half to defeat Meadville in PIAA quarterfinals

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Friday, March 15, 2019 | 9:39 PM


Mars coach Rob Carmody felt mixed emotions when Mars freshman Zach Schlegel let fly a 3-pointer with an 11-point lead and two minutes left.

“I let out a ‘Nooooo!’” Carmody said, but that quickly turned into a “Yeaaaaah!”

Schlegel’s 3 slipped through the net, and so did almost every other shot Mars took in the second half Friday night. The WPIAL champions experienced a near-perfect half — missing only two shots after halftime — as the Planets defeated District 10 champion Meadville, 73-57, in a PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal at Sharon.

Mars went 14 for 16 from the field.

“Everybody was just making shots — it was incredible,” said Schlegel, who made two 3-pointers in the fourth as Mars pulled away. “Everybody is just so happy for everyone. Everybody is handshaking everyone. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Andrew Recchia scored a team-high 19 points for WPIAL champion Mars (27-1), which had five scorers in double figures. Khori Fusco scored 16 points, Michael Carmody had 13, and Brandon Caruso and Schlegel each added 10.

The win advances the Planets to the PIAA semifinals for the second year in a row. Waiting there will be WPIAL runner-up Moon, which defeated Lower Dauphin, 51-50, in overtime Friday.

Mars and Moon will play at 7 p.m., Monday at New Castle.

Lashon Lindsey led Meadville (20-7) with 22 points and Lemaro Husband added 14. Fusco guarded Lindsey, a 6-foot-8 senior who’s Meadville’s all-time scoring leader. Lindsey went 8 for 19 shooting, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range.

Mars never trailed in Friday’s victory, though Meadville forced a second-half tie at 35-35 with 4:15 left in the third. Recchia answered immediately with a 3-pointer, and Caruso scored a driving layup to lead by five.

The Planets outscored Meadville, 29-15, over the next 10 minutes.

“We realized we really hadn’t shot well the entire playoffs,” Recchia said. “To go 14 for 16 in the second half, that’s exactly what we needed. When we do that, we’re not going to lose.”

Recchia, Fusco, Carmody and Caruso have given Mars four consistent scorers throughout the season. Carmody scored 10 in the first half Friday as Mars built a 27-23 halftime lead. Fusco scored 10 in the fourth with two dunks to clinch the win.

But also key Friday was the production the Planets got from Schlegel and sophomore Mihali Sfanos, who combined for 15 points off the bench. Mihali scored five points in the first half and Schlegel scored all 10 of his in the second.

“The thing we’ve lacked throughout the playoffs is (scoring from) that fifth spot,” Rob Carmody said.

Schlegel scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 5 minutes left that pushed Mars’ lead from six points to nine. He then quickly drew a charge at the other end, an offensive foul that forced Meadville starter Keeon Lindsey to foul out.

Carmody said Schlegel had “hit the wall” late in the season as a freshman transitioning from junior high basketball.

“To see him smiling and having fun tonight was awesome,” Carmody said. “He hasn’t given up. That charge he took? That’s who he is. That’s what he can be. That’s why I’m really excited about what’s ahead for him.”

Carmody’s oh-no moment came a few minutes later, when Schlegel launched another 3.

“It reminded me he was a freshman, and it reminded me why I love him,” Carmody said. “You’ve got to have guts to take that shot.”

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

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