No. 3 Mt. Lebanon holds off Canon-McMillan for Section 2-6A win

Friday, January 25, 2019 | 10:30 PM

For three quarters Friday the Canon-McMillan boys basketball team provided the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils a stiff test.

But Mt. Lebanon senior Hayden Mitchell’s fourth-quarter performance helped the WPIAL Class 6A No. 3 Blue Devils pass the challenge.

Mitchell scored 10 straight points to open the fourth quarter, and the Blue Devils defeated the visiting Big Macs, 70-50, in Section 2 action at Mt. Lebanon High School.

“It was kind of how the game played (out),” Mitchell said. “I saw a couple opportunities and made some shots. … Everyone on the team can do that; it’s just a matter of opportunities, and we needed that.”

The Blue Devils (15-2, 7-0) have won eight straight and 12 of 13. Canon-McMillan (9-7, 3-4) dropped its second straight game.

Mitchell finished with a game-high 24 points. He did all his scoring in the final three quarters after C-M held the senior off the board in the first eight minutes.

“I think he was really patient with things,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David said. “He is a really good shooter, and he’s been shooting the ball really well in practice. I expected a pretty big night from him. They tried to change things up (defensively). … We run the same offense through it. We have five guys that can shoot, and I thought he did a really did a nice job, both offensively and defensively.”

The game was a far cry from the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 4 when Mt. Lebanon won 78-46 on the road. On Friday, neither team led by more than than six through the first three quarters and the teams entered the fourth knotted 43-43.

“We’re not taking anybody for granted,” David said. “We were prepared for that. We thought it was going to be a close game, and I was proud of the guys. They really turned it on toward the end of the game.”

Mitchell took over in the fourth with a pair of layups, a 3-pointer and a 3-point play to open up a 10-point lead.

“We knew they were going to come out and play really hard,” Mitchell said. “They played really hard in the first three quarters, and it was a really tight game. We just found a way to break it open in the fourth quarter, which was big.”

Lebo held C-M without a point in the final quarter until just 2:50 remained. The Blue Devils began to slow the tempo, prompting C-M to ramp up its defensive pressure and ultimately send Lebo to the foul line.

The Blue Devils secured the game by going 12 for 15 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to ensure the final score was not indicative of how close the game truly was.

“We’re down and they start holding it, we’re going to start scrambling, trapping, so it went from whatever to 20 (points),” C-M coach Rick Bell said. “We’re going to try to find a way to win the game. They’re well-coached, they’re good players and they’re good free throw shooters, and we foul and trap, and they hit the free throws.”

Lebo led 29-28 at the break, but Canon-McMillan began the third with three straight 3-pointers to open a 37-32 lead. The Blue Devils hit three treys of their own to close the quarter tied 43-43.

The Big Macs changed defenses on every dead ball in an attempt to prevent the Blue Devils from getting into an offensive rhythm. That strategy finally stopped working in the fourth quarter.

“That’s just out of respect for (Lebo) because they’re really good offensively and once they get going and free-flowing they’re tough to stop,” Bell said. “I didn’t think we had one (particular) defense where we could say, ‘We’re going to play this and stop these guys.’ ”

Jake Hoffman added 17 points and Sean Loughran added 13 for the Blue Devils, who outscored Canon-McMillan, 27-7, in the final quarter.

Tom Samosky led the Big Macs with 16 points and Drew Engel added 13.

Jesse Geleynse is a freelance writer.

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