Michael Carmody’s big game leads Mars past South Fayette

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Friday, February 21, 2020 | 11:43 PM


Mars didn’t have its A game Friday night in its 2020 playoff debut, but the Fightin’ Planets survived and advanced to their fourth straight Class 5A final four.

Senior Michael Carmody scored 23 points and dominated the glass with 19 rebounds as the two-time defending WPIAL champions knocked off South Fayette, 57-44, at North Hills.

“Fortunately, you can do everything wrong defensively, but when you rebound the ball with Mike and since we’ve added Chris (Dvorak) to the lineup, we’re really good at keeping teams to one shot,” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “We’re not a good defensive team. We’re not a New Castle team pressing you, but when you rebound, you win that possession.”

Mars needed a big effort from their big men because some of their regular scorers struggled against South Fayette.

Some of that might have to do with the 10-day layoff Mars had since its last regular season game after earning a first-round bye as the 5A No. 3 seed.

“You have to get back to normal, and I thought you saw us do that a little bit once we got Michael going,” Rob Carmody said. “We never really got Mihali (Sfanos) going; we never really got Joey (Craska) going. I don’t know. Maybe they combined for two points?”

The senior Craska and junior Sfanos did combine for two points, to go along with six rebounds, two steals and two assists.

The game was back and forth early with the first quarter ending in a 14-14 tie.

South Fayette had several great looks in the second quarter that would not fall, including a sequence of a missed open 3-point shot, two point-blank offensive rebounds and two missed putbacks.

The Fightin’ Planets took advantage and limited the Lions to only six points in the quarter as Mars took a 28-20 lead at the half.

South Fayette scored the first seven points of the third quarter and had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead but could not get the equalizer. However, the Lions were only down three heading into the fourth quarter.

While Craska and Sfanos struggled from the perimeter, sophomore point guard Zach Schlegel picked up the slack with 20 points and 8-of-10 shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

Another sophomore led the way for South Fayette as Brandon Jakiela had 17 points, while the hero from the first-round victory over Franklin Regional, Kade St. Ledger, added 16 points.

The win earned Mars a berth in the PIAA basketball playoffs for a ninth straight year and also earned the Fightin’ Planets a trip to the district 5A final four for a fourth consecutive season.

Mars will face Chartiers Valley in a WPIAL semifinals game Tuesday.

“I think the biggest thing for us was Zach, Mihali, Joey, Chris, they’ve never been in this situation. There’s no way to prepare them for this,” Rob Carmody said of his key players’ lack of experience. ”Knowing that your season could come to an end, there’s no way to do anything but get in the environment.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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