Mt. Lebanon uses hold-the-ball strategy to defeat Allderdice in PIAA 2nd round
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 10:09 PM
Mt. Lebanon had a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, so the Blue Devils did what they do best.
For more than two minutes, senior Mike Palmer stood just across half-court with the basketball on his left hip as the clock ticked away. The WPIAL champion slowed the tempo, stayed patient and made free throws to defeat City League champion Allderdice, 64-58, Wednesday night in a PIAA Class 6A second-round game at Canon-McMillan.
It was reminiscent of how they won the WPIAL title.
“You’ve seen us play, you know the script,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David said. “If we’re up, we’re going to do what we do. There’s no reason to change it because I know these guys are gamers and they’re going to knock their free throws down. That’s the best way for us to win.”
Mt. Lebanon went 9 for 10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter as four different players made free throws. Palmer led with 19 points, Blaine Gartley had 13 points, and Jake Hoffman and Sean Loughran each added 10.
The victory advances Mt. Lebanon (24-3) into a quarterfinal matchup with top-ranked Kennedy Catholic on Saturday. A site and time was not yet announced. Kennedy defeated Pine-Richland, 82-63, on Friday.
“They’re obviously a very, very good team,” said David, whose team scrimmaged the District 10 champion before the season when Kennedy was without 6-foot-9 star Oscar Tshiebwe.
“They’re from all over the world,” David added. “We’re from Mt. Lebanon.”
David had his team slow Wednesday’s tempo with about six and a half minutes left and Mt. Lebanon leading 50-49. Allderdice wasn’t pressuring the ball, so Palmer and everybody else stood in place until the 4:40 mark as Dragons students chanted: “This is not basketball.”
Once Allderdice finally forced Palmer to move, Mt. Lebanon held possession for another 52 seconds until Hoffman made a 3-pointer from the left corner to lead 53-49.
“We have five good ball-handlers out there,” David said. “They’re good passers and we practice that situation every day against six guys. We let those guys foul. We let those guys push us. So I always say to them: ‘Hey, it’s the six-on-five drill and they only have five.’”
Bobby Clifford scored 18 for Allderdice (22-6), Terrell Childs had 17, Jackson Blaufeld had 13 and Dalen Dugger added 10. This was a rematch from Feb. 9, when Mt. Lebanon won 52-50 at home.
Mt. Lebanon led 34-29 at half Wednesday before Allderdice opened the third on a 10-0 run with seven points from Blaufeld. Mt. Lebanon went scoreless for more than 4 minutes and the Dragons led 39-34. But Mt. Lebanon battled back in the quarter and forced a 46-46 tie after three.
“We had our opportunities,” Allderdice coach Buddy Valinsky said. “The biggest part of the game was when we were up five — 39-34 — and we had the ball. I felt we had to get up seven or nine on these guys, then we could dictate the defenses we wanted to play.”
Allderdice was focused on stopping Mt. Lebanon’s shooters, so Valinsky at times used a defense with four players on the perimeter and 6-7 Dalen Dugger in the middle. Still, Mt. Lebanon went 9 for 25 from beyond the 3-point arc with two each from Gartley, Hoffman and Loughran.
“We tried to push the pace a little more earlier,” Palmer said. “Toward the end we just wanted to hold it, be patient and get the best shot possible.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .