No. 1 Vincentian boys slip past upset-minded Leechburg

Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 10:51 PM

Down by 17 points to the defending WPIAL champion and No. 1 seed Vincentian, Leechburg worked its way back to a tie with 3 minutes, 6 seconds to go.

Vincentian then called on its big man, 6-foot-6 sophomore Angelo Reeves, who drove in for two straight baskets and added a foul shot for good measure.

The Royals held Leechburg scoreless the rest of the way and emerged with a 58-49 victory at North Hills.

A 3-pointer by Connor McDermott tied the game at 49-49 after Vincentian had taken a 44-27 lead with 2:42 left in the third quarter.

Vincentian (15-7) will battle Monessen in the WPIAL semifinals Monday at a site and time to be determined.

“Really, hats off to Leechburg and coach (Corey) Smith,” said Vincentian coach Tim Tyree Jr., a Monessen graduate. “What he did with those kids and getting them prepared for this game, we knew they were going to be a team that wouldn’t stop fighting.”

Junior Jake Blumer led Leechburg with 18 points, keeping the Blue Devils afloat during two critical dry spells in the second and third quarters.

Now, Leechburg (13-10) is in position to root for the Royals. If Vincentian beats Monessen, Leechburg will be pulled into the PIAA tournament, which begins March 8.

“Going into this, I knew we weren’t backing down,” Smith aid. “I don’t care if they’re the No. 1 team or not. What hurt us tonight was the second- and third-chance shots we worked on all week. We just didn’t get it done.”

Leechburg had trouble with Reeves, at least three inches taller than any Blue Devils defender.

“That kid is getting better every day, I can’t say enough about him,” Tyree said. “We knew our advantage was inside early on. We definitely wanted to enforce that early in the game. He answered the bell again tonight.”

Vincentian also blanketed long-range shooters Cook and McDermott with a variety of players.

“We practice and take pride in being able to defend on the ball,” Tyree said. “Alex Griggs is one of the best defenders in the WPIAL. Nate Cullo and a freshman, Matty McDonough, bring a great a great effort.”

McDermott managed a trio of 3-pointers while Cook had to finally go inside for his five baskets.

Leechburg committed five turnovers in the first three minutes-plus of the second quarter, allowing the Royals to take a 26-12 lead.

The Blue Devils cut their deficit to four, but a 9-0 run by Vincentian early in the third forged a 44-27 advantage.

“Our guys never quit, and they never will,” Smith said. “These guys will run through a wall for me. I told them to walk out of here with their heads held high.”

To typify the way the final minutes went for Leechburg, Cook hit what would have been a 3-pointer, but the ball hit the guide wire above the hoop and the ball was turned over to the Royals.

John Miskinis collected eight rebounds for Leechburg, which was 8 of 8 at the free-throw line.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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