Path to the Pete Recaps From Tuesday 2/23

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 | 11:09 PM

While Tuesday was a bad night for top-seeds, it was a GREAT night to be a high school basketball fan. Five of the eight Final Four games turned into thrillers with teams laying it on the line for a spot in Championship Weekend. Four #1-seeds entered the night two wins from securing an expected championship. The night ended with only one team still alive and great heartbreak for eight teams that now must wait for the state postseason. Here are recaps from the Boys AAA, Boys A, Girls AAAA and Girls AA Semifinals.

A special thanks to Mike Azadian, James Dotson, Bob Barrickman, Bob Orkwis, Josh Rowntree, Mark Schaas, Kevin Zielmanski and Randy Gore for their help on these recaps.


Highlands Golden Rams 79 – New Castle Red Hurricane 76 in Overtime 
Rallying from deficits of 13 points in the third quarter and 9 in the fourth, the Golden Rams will get a chance to play for gold on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center in the WPIAL Class AAA title game. Senior Lavontae Martin controlled the overtime period, scoring 6 of his game high 22 points to upset the top-seeded Red Hurricanes. New Castle controlled the scoreboard for the first half, leading 12-8 after one and 25-23 at the helf, despite having three starters in foul trouble in the final three minutes of the half. The 10-time WPIAL champions looked like the were headed to the finals again as senior Marquel Hooker and junior Geno Stone staked the Red Hurricanes to a 43-30 lead with 2:33 remaining in the third. Highlands cut into the lead, outscoring New Castle 7-1 even with senior starter Jamison Nee on the bench with four fouls. Martin started to show his strength inside as his back to back buckets cut the New Castle lead to just three points. The Red Hurricanes pulled away as Marquel Hooker’s basket made it 56-47. But Hooker could not convert the three-point play, which gave Highlands the chance to slowly cut into the lead. Senior Micah Fulena had a chance to seal the game for the Canes but split a pair of free throws, Nee came down and was fouled by Marquel Hooker, who fouled out. Nee hit the free throws, then after a Pat Minenok put back, tied the game with a three to force overtime. In the extra period, Highlands got the lead, led by Martin, forcing the Red Hurricanes to play from behind. New Castle had a chance to tie and send the contest to a second overtime but Gino DeMonico’s shot was deflected and the Golden Rams were headed back to the finals for the first time since 2009 and fourth overall. Nee added 20 points, junior Mitch Dezort added 18. The Golden Rams are 21-4 overall and finished with 20 turnovers, 11 in the opening quarter. Highlands will meet Beaver Falls in the title game on Friday night at 9 pm only on the MSA Sports Network. New Castle falls to 23-2. The Red Hurricanes were led by Marquel Hooker and Stone each with 21, Minenok tied a career high with 15. New Castle committed 15 turnovers and will now either be the third or fourth seed in the PIAA tournament, starting a week from Friday.

Beaver Falls Tigers 59 – Mars Fighting Planets 58 
In a thriller Tuesday night at the Ambridge Fieldhouse, Mars star sophomore guard Robby Carmody missed the back end of a one-and-one with 1.7 seconds left and Beaver Falls prevailed, 59-58 in a boys AAA semifinal.  The Planets led at the half, 25-24 before the Tigers erupted for five 3-point shots in the third quarter, three of them by 6’7 junior Josh Creach and the other two by junior guard Bryce Stratti.  Beaver Falls built a 13-point lead at 41-28 before Mars made a late bid in the period and cut the deficit to eight going into the final stanza.  The Tigers seemingly withstood the Planets charge in the fourth quarter but led by the 3-point shooting of senior guard Christian Schmitt, Mars forged a tie.  Shoddy free throw shooting by Beaver Falls down the stretch plagued the Tigers but Creach did hit one which proved to be the difference.  Though he missed half of the second period due to foul trouble, Creach led all scorers with 25 points.  Stratti added 16 while junior Donovan Jeter chipped in with 12 points.  Carmody led a balanced attack by scoring 14 points for the Planets while senior twins John and Steve Castello added 12 apiece and fellow senior Alex Gruber scored 11 before fouling out with 52 seconds to go.  Now 22-3, Beaver Falls will take on surprising Highlands in the WPIAL title game on Friday night with tip off at 9 p.m. from the Petersen Events Center.  The 19-6 Planets will wait ten days before their opening game in the PIAA playoffs.

WPIAL CLASS A Semifinals:

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans 79 – Monessen Greyhounds 77 in Overtime 
Kenny Fukon’s running bank shot with no time remaining lifted No. 4 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (17-8) to a 79-77 overtime win over No. 1 Monessen (21-4) in a WPIAL Boys Class A Semifinal at Charters Valley on Tuesday night. Erick Taylor scored 29 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, blocked seven shots and hit a game-tying three-pointer with 22.1 left in overtime for the Trojans. With the win, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic advances to the WPIAL Boys Class A Championship, where they will meet No. 2 Sewickley Academy (23-2) on Friday at 7PM at The Peterson Events Center. Monessen, which now must focus on the PIAA Playoffs and a matchup against either the District 10 champion or runner-up, was paced by Dwight Moore (28 points, 7 rebounds), Jaden Altomore (25 points) and Justice Rice (13 points). The Greyhounds would hop out to an early 7-4 lead, but see it taken away by a 10-1 CWNC run, giving the Trojans a 14-10 lead after eight minutes. The second quarter was a back-and-forth shootout in which Altomore shined, scoring 13 of his 19 first half points. Rice would connect on a fadeaway, buzzer-beating three-pointer as time expired in the first half, giving Monessen a 35-28 lead at intermission. The second half would continue the trend of runs, with CWNC jumping out to an 11-4 run, only to be answered by a Monessen surge. Monessen would take a 55-52 lead into the fourth quarter thanks, in part, to Moore’s nine points in the 3rd quarter. Behind a 15-of-17 showing from the free throw line in the second half, the Greyhounds would cling to a 64-63 lead with 4:11 left in regulation. But both teams would be overtaken by turnovers, with each throwing the ball away on multiple possessions. After the teams exchanged scores, Taylor would connect on a pair of free throws with 31.1 seconds left in regulation, pushing the Trojans to a 67-66 advantage. But Monessen bench player Alan Duncan would be fouled and head to the free throw line with 28 seconds left. Duncan would hit one of his two foul shots and both teams would miss potential go-ahead shots in the final seconds of regulation, seeing the game to overtime tied at 67-67. CWNC’s Zach Offi would shine early in the extra frame, scoring the first five points and putting the Trojans up 72-67. But Monessen would rev up their pressure on defense, forcing back-to-back steals and rattling off eight unanswered points, grabbing the lead at 75-72. A pair of free throws from Taylor would make it 75-74, but Moore would drop in two more from the line, pushing the Monessen lead to 77-74. That’s when Taylor would come through when it counted most. After Austin Sieminski would get trapped by three Greyhounds under the hoop, he would kick it would to Taylor at the top of the key. Taylor would step into and knock down a game-tying three-pointer, evening the game at 77-77. On the ensuing possession, Rice would travel, giving the Trojans the ball back with 5.6 second left. Taylor would take the inbound pass and send it up the sideline to Fukon, who would bank in a running shot as time expired, lifting CWNC to the victory. The semifinal win for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic snaps a string of four consecutive semifinal defeats and is their first since 2010, when the Trojans won the WPIAL Championship over Rochester. Monessen’s semifinal loss snaps a streak of four semifinal victories in a row, with their last loss coming to North Catholic in 2009.

Sewickley Academy Panthers 69 – Jeannette Jayhawks 68 
Sewickley Academy staged an incredible, you-have-to-be-there-to-believe-it, comeback to defeat the Jeannette Jayhawks 69 – 68 at Chartiers Valley High School to advance to the Single-A championship game versus Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. With 5:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks lead the Panthers 61 – 40 but they just could not find a way to stop the onslaught of points scored by the Panthers in the last five minutes, a run that was sparkled by the rare 4 point play converted by Declan Hickton, his only points of the game. The turning point in the game occurred when Senior Point Guard Swade Redman fouled out around the same time that the Panthers started to rally. Redman was Jayhawks’ primary ball handler prior to his disqualification, and was unstoppable in the third quarter when he scored 13 of his 16 points. Without him in the game, the Panthers had much more success trapping the other Jayhawks, creating numerous turnovers that were converted into points, most of those by Christian Groetsch or Nate Ridgeway who scored 11 and 9 points respectively in the fourth quarter. Jeannette had the lead with 35 seconds remaining and Michael Pompei did his best to run out the clock by dribbling the ball and executing give-and-gos with teammates but one of those return passes was careless and a Sewickley player deflected the ball off of a Jayhawk and out of bounds with 9.7 seconds remaining. Coach Win Palmer expertly managed his timeouts so he still had one remaining to set up the winning play as four Panthers touched the ball with the final pass finding Ridgeway on the low right block for the easy layup. The officials put 0.8 seconds on the clock but Jeannette was not able to get a great shot and the game ended. Senior Anthony Scmidt was a force in the paint all game for Jeannette and lead all scorers with 25 points. Also scoring in double figures for the Jayhawks was Redman with 16 and Robert Kennedy with 13. Justin Pryor lead the Panthers with 17 and Groetsch finished with 13 and Ridgeway with 11.


Norwin Knights 59 – Pine-Richland Rams 30 
Response to adversity. After surviving a near upset to Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals, Coach Brian Brozeski’s Norwin Lady Knights responded in a big way, defeating Pine-Richland 59-30 to earn a trip to the WPIAL Class AAAA Championship game. Big responses were key throughout the entire contest on Tuesday night.  Every time Pine-Richland would show life, the Lady Knights had an answer. After an Amanda Kalin steal led to a breakaway layup to begin the scoring early in the contest, Norwin went on a 9-0 run to force an early timeout from Lady Rams coach Tom Reighard. After two Kalin free throws late in the first quarter, Norwin again responded, this time with an 8-0 run to extend the lead to 17-4. Most of the damage for the Lady Knights came in the form of second- and third-chance opportunities. Norwin snagged 15 offensive rebounds, more than the total number of rebounds tallied by Pine-Richland in the contest. In total, Norwin out-rebounded Pine-Richland 32-14 in the contest. Taking a 28-13 lead into the locker room, the Lady Knights would have to survive a comeback attempt by Pine-Richland in the second half. The Lady Rams scored 8 of the first 11 points in the second half, cutting the lead to 31-21 as they began to heat up from the outside. However, they would get no closer as Norwin would answer yet again with another big run, this time scoring 11 unanswered to finish the third quarter. Alayna Gribble led the way with 22 points for Norwin. She also grabbed  four rebounds, dished out four assists, and recorded four steals. Jenna Cole followed with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Dominique Petack had 7 points and 7 rebounds (6 offensive), and Taylor Ingel also tallied 7 points off of the bench. All seven Lady Knights with significant playing time got into the action, with each recording both a field goal and a rebound in the contest. Norwin’s top-ranked defense (allowing again stepped up, holding the Lady Rams to single-digit scoring in each quarter. Kalin led the was with 10 points and 6 rebounds, followed by Caitlyn Byerly with 6 tallies.  Norwin remains undefeated and will now look to defend their WPIAL title against North Allegheny, a 68-40 victor over North Hills, Saturday night at 7:00 at the Petersen Events Center. Pine-Richland’s “Path to the Pete” ends tonight, but the Lady Rams will still advance into the PIAA Tournament as either the 3- or 4-seed out of the WPIAL.

North Allegheny Tigers 68 – Penn Hills Indians 40 
The North Allegheny Tigers advanced to the WPIAL championship game for the first time since 1998 with an impressive 68-40 victory over the Penn Hills Indians in the WPIAL semifinals. The Tigers had reached the semifinal round the last two seasons but fell short of the title game each time. On Tuesday night, the third time was the charm for North Allegheny in a thorough defeat of Penn Hills. The win sets up a championship joust with the reigning champion Norwin Knights on Saturday night at the Peterson Events Center. The Tigers found their shooting stroke early and bombarded the Indians from 3-point land with 9 of 20 shooting from beyond the arc, while Penn Hills struggled offensively and was limited to 20 percent shooting from the outside.  Junior Hailey Zeise and senior Abby Gonzales knocked down 6 of 12 on 3-pointers and paced North Allegheny offensively. Zeise and Gonzales scored 23 and 20 points, respectively. Senior Taylor Lake also reached double figures with 11 points. Penn Hills junior Desiree Oliver accounted for half of her team’s output and netted a team-high 20 points. With the help of Oliver, Penn Hills held an 8-7 lead in the first quarter but North Allegheny ended the period on an 11-2 run for an 18-10 lead. The game was never close from that point on as the Tigers lit up the second best scoring defense in Quad-A. Every bounce and shot went North Allegheny’s way, made evident by an 80-foot buzzer beater to end the third quarter by Rachel Martindale that gave the Tigers a 47-27 lead. North Allegheny shifted into cruise control in the fourth quarter to close out the 68-40 triumph. With their 15th straight win, North Allegheny improves to 22-3 overall and will play the undefeated Norwin Knights in the WPIAL championship on Saturday at 7:00 pm. The game will be broadcasted live by the North Allegheny Sports Network. Penn Hills saw their 10-game winning streak snapped and dip to 22-3 overall. The Indians have already qualified for the PIAA tournament next week.

WPIAL CLASS AA Semifinals:

Bishop Canevin Crusaders 38 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers 31 
These two teams came into tonight’s semifinal matchup boasting the two top defenses in WPIAL Class AA. The Crusaders allowed just 31.8 PPG while the Chargers were a bit better at 31.6 per game, so a defensive battle was expected, but it didn’t start that way at Ambridge High School. OLSH opened a 7 point first quarter lead on the strength of 4 three-pointers but the Crusaders rallied and the Chargers led 15-12 after the first eight minutes. Then, the defense happened as Bishop Canevin would hold OLSH to single digits in the last three quarters and to just 10 second half points on the way to a 38-31 victory and a second consecutive trip to the championship game. IUP recruit Courtney Alexander and Anna Lohmann each hit a pair of three’s in the first quarter for the Chargers and Alexander would finish with three treys on the night to lead the Chargers with 14 points. Senior Bri Van Volkenburg finished with 11 points for OLSH and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Lohmann was the only other to Charger to score on the evening as she finished with 6 points. Gina Vallecorsa paced Bishop Canevin with a game-high 19 points. The California University of Pennsylvania bound senior connected on one three-pointer and finished the game 8-of-8 from the free throw line, including making all six of her foul shots in the 4th quarter. Brionna Allen and Lauren Gamble (2 three-pointers) each finished with 6 points while freshman Shamyjha Price came off the bench to score points and pull down 7 rebounds to lead Bishop Canevin. With the win, the Crusaders improved to (21-4) on the season and Bishop Canevin will be making its fourth trip to the Class AA title game in the last five years. The Crusaders won the title in 2013. Top seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart finishes the WPIAL slate with a (21-4) record and the Chargers are guaranteed to be one of the top three seeds from the WPIAL in the AA State Playoffs. Fourth seeded Bishop Canevin now heads to the Petersen Events Center to face the #14 seed, Greensburg Central Catholic. GCC defeated Carlynton 61-48 and the Centurions and the Crusaders will start off the WPIAL Basketball Championship weekend with a 5 PM tipoff on Friday afternoon. The Crusaders, who appeared in the semifinals for the sixth straight season, have also qualified for the PIAA playoffs for a sixth straight year as well.

Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions 61 – Carlynton Cougars 48 
At North Allegheny High School in WPIAL girls semi final playoff action the 14th seeded Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions win going away beating the Carlynton Cougars 61-48. The first quarter was the Brittany Stawovy show. She poured in 11 points for the Centurions. She was 3 for 3 from three point land to lead GCC to a 17-9 lead after the first quarter. Carlynton’s Diamond Thomas led the Cougars with 6 points in the first period. The Cougars turned the ball over 5 times in the quarter. Into the second quarter GCC turned the ball over 3 times and the Cougars took advantage and climbed back into the game. Thomas and Ashleigh Wilson each scored 4 points to lead the Cougars as they cut the lead to 4 at 24-20. The Centurions had an early 4-0 run in the 3rd quarter to take an 8 point lead. Carolyn Perz pumped in 5 points, and Stawovy hit two huge three’s to put GCC up 41-27 with 1:49 to go in the quarter. They led going into the 4th by 18 at 48-30. Stawovy had 11 points in the quarter and 29 thru three periods, she was 7 for 7 from the three point line as well. The Centurions led 48-30 going into the 4th quarter. Carlynton had a solid 4th quarter but it wasn’t enough as GCC held on for a 61-48 victory. Thomas had 19 and Abigail Greiner had 15 for the Cougars as they fall to 20-5 and will next play in the PIAA state playoffs next week. The Centurions were led by Stawovy with 33 points as they improve to 17-9 and will play Bishop Canevin in the WPIAL AA Championship game Friday February 26th at 5:00 pm at Petersen Events Center.

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