Winchester Thurston shocks Springdale to earn second playoff win in school history
Friday, February 21, 2020 | 10:54 PM
Sometimes, it’s not the third but the fourth time that’s the charm, and the Winchester Thurston Bears experienced just that Friday night at Shaler.
After losing to Section 1-2A rival Springdale three times over the course of the regular season, the No. 12 Bears (12-10) finally got the better of No. 4 Springdale (20-4) as they escaped Friday night’s WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal contest with a 57-54 victory, securing just the second playoff victory in school history and punching their ticket into the semifinals.
“We watched all three games on film, and I told our guys, ‘You are the better team and don’t think otherwise,’” Winchester Thurston coach Jordan Marks said. “(Springdale) shot 75 free throws in three games. So I told them we couldn’t foul them, we couldn’t put them at the free-throw line, and we just had to execute our sets.”
The Dynamos jumped out to a 9-0 lead through the first two minutes of play. They utilized an intense trap defense that forced a few turnovers and created easy buckets on the other end.
“We talked about getting on them early and we actually did a good job of it,” Springdale coach Aaron Epps said.
Halfway through the first quarter, though, Marks called a timeout to bring his team together and calm them down.
“Coach Jordan just told us to wake up,” forward Langston Moses said. “We came out really slow, so he just told us to wake up and we woke up.”
Right out of the timeout, junior guard Nathan Donner drilled one of his three 3-pointers to break the scoring drought. Then, a few minutes later, Donner drilled another and the Bears were right back in the game as they only trailed by six after the first quarter.
The Bears started to ramp up their effort even more in the second quarter. With just under four minutes remaining in the half, Jackson Juzang hit a three to cut the lead to one. Around the three-minute mark, Moses made his first 3-pointer to give the Bears their first lead of the game at 18-16.
But the Dynamos answered, and the teams went into the break locked at 20.
“I thought our energy in the second quarter was bad,” Epps said. “We were good in the first quarter and then we just started fouling, which has been a problem for us because we aren’t a very deep team.”
Led by Moses, the Bears came out of the locker room like a team looking to prove themselves. Springdale got into foul trouble when Fritch picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench. Moses took over and scored seven of his team-high 18 points in the quarter.
“We had to get the lead, get the fans into it, so that’s what I had to do,” Moses said about his performance in the third.
The Dynamos never went away though. Fritch reentered the game and scored 13 of Springdale’s 26 points in the final frame. With 20.8 seconds left, the Dynamos had cut the lead to one, but Moses sealed the game from the free-throw line, and Marks knew it was locked up.
“I told him, ‘Don’t get rid of the ball again. Do not pass it,’” Marks said. “I wanted it in his hands, and he made his final four free throws, and that’s what the best players should do.”
“This is my passion. This is my thing,” Moses said. “So being at the line, that’s my thing. The fans are cheering. It was a perfect environment.”
Just a week ago, the Bears won their first playoff game in school history. Now, they are off to the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals to take on No. 1 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on Tuesday.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More Basketball• Mt. Pleasant hires T.J. Kravits as new boys basketball coach
• Trib HSSN girls athlete of the year: Morningstar shines bright for champion North Allegheny
• Valley News Dispatch boys athlete of the year: Highlands’ Crise savored super senior seasons
• Westmoreland County boys athlete of the year: GCC’s Nate Ward showed will to win in 4 sports
• Rebel Yell Podcast: Best of the Century salute to Spencer Lee and Maura Huwalt