Mt. Lebanon starts strong, finishes off Central Catholic in Class 6A semis

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 | 8:46 PM

Playing in their third consecutive WPIAL semifinal, the defending Class 6A champion Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils knew they’d need a good start on both ends in order to continue to defend their title.

The third-seeded Blue Devils received exactly that, as they raced out to a 16-6 lead after a quarter at the UPMC Events Center at Robert Morris University, getting 11 quick points from senior Jake Hoffman.

Mt. Lebanon’s defense also benefitted from five Central Catholic turnovers in the first eight minutes.

By the end of the night, the Blue Devils ran away with a 48-32 victory and head back to the Petersen Events Center on Saturday to meet top-seeded Butler with a chance to play for a second straight gold.

“I thought we did a better job defensively than the first time we played them,” said Blue Devils coach Joey David. “When Jake is making shots early, it’s easy. He made some looks, and our defense was really good early. Overall, we got a lot of good minutes from a lot of guys.”

The second quarter featured a combined 12 points, with both teams scoring six, before Central Catholic (14-11) threw a punch to start the third. Mt. Lebanon (18-6) came right back with one of their own, and the game was never much in doubt after that, despite fight from the Vikings.

Hoffman, who will play his college basketball next year at the College of Wooster, led all scorers with 21 points. It followed up his 40-point performance against sixth-seeded Bethel Park in the quarterfinals Saturday.

“He likes to score. He can go inside, pull up and shoot the three,” David said. “He’s a special kid.”

The semifinal was the first for Central Catholic since 2012 and came off the heels of a 5-17 season last year. The Vikings are under a first-year head coach in Brian Urso and defensively, they were as impressive as they’d been throughout the postseason.

“We feel behind early. They do a great job of spacing the floor, and it’s tough to come back against them. Our guys had a lot of fight,” Urso said. “That team we played is a senior-heavy team and a playoff-experienced group. We got it to seven a few different times, but it was hard to overcome.”

The Vikings will now head to the state playoffs, a development not many people outside of their program saw coming after the rough season last year.

“We’ll get right back into the gym and get back to work,” said Urso. “We still have more basketball to play. This group is resilient, and they bought in and overcame adversity. Nobody gave them a chance to be here, so to be in this moment with these guys … I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Mt. Lebanon heads back to the Petersen Events Center for the second straight year and will be playing for its fifth WPIAL championship.

Tipoff for Saturday’s contest is slated for 9 p.m.

Watch an archived broadcast on Trib HSSN.

Tags: ,

More Basketball

PIAA taking bids to host basketball championships
Basketball coach Rob Niederberger, who lifted Shaler from last place to WPIAL contender, resigns
Penn Hills senior joins Point Park basketball at exciting time
A-K Valley shooters on target at Cager Classic skills competition
Basketball foes become teammates at Cager Classic