Penn-Trafford boys top Kiski Area to earn playoff spot

Friday, February 10, 2023 | 10:16 PM

Penn-Trafford is hot at the right time.

In a playoff atmosphere on the Warriors’ home court Friday night, P-T won its third consecutive boys basketball game and fourth in the past five to clinch a WPIAL playoff spot in its final test of the regular season.

Jason Sabol scored 18 points, and Zach Feldman added 17 as Penn-Trafford pulled away from Kiski Area for a 61-51 Section 3-5A victory to squeeze into the playoff field and avenge an earlier loss to the Cavaliers.

Kiski Area (11-11, 5-5) entered the night already having secured a spot in the bracket.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Penn-Trafford coach Doug Kelly said. “Our community has been awesome in the way they’ve supported the kids.”

The Warriors (7-15, 4-6) extended their season by taking care of business at home and benefiting from Franklin Regional’s 61-57 loss at McKeesport.

“They had to do what they had to do to stay alive,” Kiski Area coach Corey Smith said of the Warriors. “Like I told my guys, ‘You’re going to get every ounce of effort they have tonight,’ and they got it. (Penn-Trafford) took care of business, and we didn’t.”

Penn-Trafford led for nearly the entire time in a tightly contested game until the Warriors erupted with a 24-point fourth quarter.

They held advantages of 14-10 after the first quarter and 25-22 at halftime.

P-T extended the lead to 37-32 after three quarters and outscored Kiski Area, 24-19, in the fourth.

Isaiah Gonzalez paced the Cavaliers with a game-high 25 points.

Kelly strolled around the P-T gym afterward, accepting well-wishes from parents and fans.

“You know,” he said, “I realize we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but our guys have come to practice this year and you’d never know how we were doing. We knew we were going to take some lumps (in a new section), but I didn’t anticipate the level of it. A lot of credit goes to these guys for the way they come to work. I’m glad there’s some fruit to the labor they’ve put in.”

Kelly said he was so excited to see a packed gym for such an important game.

“I just found out our security guard at the high school was going around on all the watches this week and saying, ‘If you guys don’t get here on Friday night, there’s going to be parking tickets on all your cars,’ ” Kelly said. “The kids love him.”

Kiski Area defeated Penn-Trafford, 62-45, on Jan. 17, but it was a different script this time.

“This is the first time for these guys that they’ve been here at this gym,” said Smith, a former Kiski Area star. “I’ve played here. I know what it can be. They’ve got to get used to it. They’ve got to get used to packed gyms. We’ve got to get used to getting up and down. Basketball is a game of runs. You’ve got to fight to get back in it. You’ve got to pick each other up regardless of the crowd noise and the atmosphere.

“We just couldn’t get used to it.”

Both teams are in the playoffs now, and they’ll learn who their first-round opponents will be when pairings are released Monday.

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