Marcus McCarthy’s clutch free throws help Hempfield boys end skid vs. Latrobe

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 10:17 PM

It has been a while since the Hempfield boys basketball team has beaten Latrobe. It has been even longer since the Spartans won at Latrobe.

Those streaks came to an end Tuesday thanks to clutch free throws from Marcus McCarthy.

The senior made five of six free throws in the final minute, and Hempfield (7-7, 3-2) won a huge WPIAL Section 3-6A road game, rallying to defeat Latrobe, 68-66. It ended a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats.

Hempfield’s last win in the series came at home Jan. 13, 2015. The last win at Latrobe was Jan. 14, 2014.

The win leaves the Spartans in a second-place tie with Penn-Trafford. Latrobe (3-11, 1-4) is tied with Norwin, a game behind Connellsville.

Latrobe took a 65-61 lead on a layup by freshman Landon Butler with 1 minute, 19 seconds left, but Hempfield chipped away at free-throw line.

Drew Coletta, who finished with 13 points, hit a pair with 1:09 left to make it 65-63. Then McCarthy hit a pair to tie the score at 65-65 with 55.5 seconds left.

Hempfield got the ball back after a Latrobe miss, McCarthy grabbed the rebound was fouled by Michael Noonan with 36.6 seconds to go. He made one to give the Spartans a 66-65 lead. It was Noonan’s fifth foul. He finished with 26.

“Everyone was congratulating him on making the free throws, but I thought he grabbed every big rebound down the stretch,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “We needed this win bad, bad, badly. All we’re trying to do is make the playoffs.”

After a timeout with 14.6 left, the Wildcats set up a driving layup for Butler, but the shot didn’t fall and McCarthy grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 4.8 left. He made both to push the lead to 68-65.

“It was great to finally get a win here,” McCarthy said. “It’s a great rivalry and tough to win here. We have a lot of scorers, and I got my chance to hit free throws at the end.”

This was a game of momentum swings. Latrobe used a 7-0 run in the first quarter to grab an 18-11 lead.

Hempfield scored 14 in a row in the second quarter to take a 33-25 lead. Then it was Latrobe’s time to seize the momentum, outscoring Hempfield, 25-17, in the third quarter to take a 55-52 lead into the final eight minutes.

“They get going,” Swan said. “They always seem to have big third quarters here against us. We only had 12 turnovers, and we turned them over a good bit. It’s always a game of runs here.”

McCarthy and Christian Zilli led the Spartans with 15 points each. Butler and Ryan Sickenberger scored 11 each for the Wildcats, and Chase Sickenberger added 10.

“We got to open things up, or we can’t get the opportunity,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said, “Mike runs the floor as good as any big guy, so we want to get him in the opened look.

“It’s a shame the game ended like that. I would rather see the players decide the outcome. We could have ended this game on the line, and we didn’t.”

Latrobe was only 1 of 4 from the line in the fourth quarter and missed the front end of a one-and-one twice.

“That’s reality,” Wetzel said. “That’s what good teams do and teams like us don’t do. You have to go to the line and nail those foul shots.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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