Pine-Richland conquers nerves, Hempfield in advancing to WPIAL Class 6A semifinals

Friday, March 5, 2021 | 9:21 PM

Pine-Richland boys basketball coach Bob Petcash admitted to being nervous about Friday night’s WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal game at Hempfield.

“I was on edge,” Petcash said. “We hadn’t seen them and hadn’t played them in years.”

The sixth-seeded Rams didn’t let any nerves show, especially in the fourth quarter, as they rallied to defeat No. 3 Hempfield, 65-61, in a fast-paced contest at Spartans Field House.

Pine-Richland (13-5) advances to play No. 2 Fox Chapel (20-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals. Fox Chapel handled No. 7 North Allegheny, 74-56.

The Rams will play in the WPIAL semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons.

“And we did it in front of the biggest crowd we have seen all year,” Petcash said. “Bill Swan is a great coach. We knew they would be prepared for us. They are very skilled and disciplined. This is a huge win for our program.”

Hempfield (12-6), which was coming off its first playoff win in six years, was seeking its first semifinal trip since 2003. The team was sharp offensively and got around Rams defenders, looking poised to pull off one of the program’s biggest playoff wins.

Despite the near-miss, Hempfield coach Bill Swan was pleased with how the Spartans played against a top program on a big stage.

“Two even teams in a great high school basketball game,” Swan said. “We played great, and I am proud of our kids. They played their hearts out. (Pine-Richland) made a few more plays than us.”

Hempfield started fast and had a 10-point lead in the first quarter.

It took a 34-32 edge into halftime with senior Mario Perkins hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

The Spartans stretched their advantage to eight (49-41) in the third, but the up-tempo Rams chipped away in the fourth before finally pulling ahead with 4 minutes, 58 seconds to play on a drive by junior Luke Shanahan that made it 57-56.

“Shanahan made some big plays in the second half,” Swan said. “He really got to the rim.”

After senior Joey Petcash scored to make it 60-56, Hempfield senior Christian Zilli made a layup to get it to two with 2:08 remaining.

Zilli finished with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, and fellow senior Mike Hosni scored 18. Zilli had 10 in the third.

Pine-Richland made 6 of 9 free throws in the fourth to stay in front, including two by junior Joey Dudkowski with 34.8 seconds left, and a pair from junior Andy Swartout with 24.5 to make it 64-59.

Shanahan had a game-high 22 points, Dudkowski added 18 and Swartout had 15.

“We went to a full-court press at the end, and we hadn’t run that all year,” Bob Petcash said. “Our kids were prepared to run it. They locked in.”

Hempfield junior Sean Gordon put back a missed 3 to cut it to 64-61 with 11.2 remaining, but the Spartans could not force overtime.

Missed free throws proved detrimental as they tried to regain control. They made 1 of 3 inside the final 30 seconds after getting within four of the Rams.

Hempfield was 4 of 12 for the game.

“It wasn’t all the free throws,” Swan said. “Our kids played hard. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We’re very grateful to have been able to play and to make it this far. There are a lot of broken hearts.”

Coach Petcash said Joey Petcash’s late timeout to maintain a posession was important, as was the senior committing a foul after Pine-Richland missed 1-and-1 to prevent a Hempfield 3.

“Those were big plays there,” he said. “Andy and Luke really played well for us. Everybody played their role. (Hempfield) took out Joey but other guys stepped up.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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