Playing without star center Michael Carmody, Mars falls short in PIAA 1st-round game

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Friday, March 6, 2020 | 9:50 PM


After his team lost in overtime, battling without standout senior Michael Carmody, who was serving a one-game suspension, Mars boys basketball coach Rob Carmody told his players he was obviously disappointed, but he was glad they lost on a play made by a “winning player.”

For most of the night, Mars played four underclassmen, and he said the play made at the end by Elizabethtown guard Ryan Parise was a good lesson for his younger players.

Parise, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, tipped in a missed shot with eight seconds remaining for what proved to be the winning basket as Elizabethtown earned its first state playoff win in school history with a 58-56 overtime victory over the Fightin’ Planets in the first round of the PIAA tournament at Valley.

“We’ve played a lot of good guards this year in our area, but (Parise) was impressive,” Coach Carmody said. “He’s a winner. He was the smallest guy in their lineup, and he made the biggest play of the game by tipping in a shot. That’s kudos to him. That’s a guy that’s been through the battles and knows what it takes to win.”

Parise followed up a missed jumper by Alex Olson and tipped the ball in uncontested at the rim for the only points in overtime. He finished with 16 points and gave the Bears a lot to celebrate on their trip home to Lancaster Country.

“It was pretty cool,” said Elizabethtown coach Rocky Parise, who is Ryan’s father. “He’s been through a lot in his four years here and to have a game-winner for our first ever state playoff win is pretty special.”

Elizabethtown (20-9) advanced to play District 12’s Archbishop Ryan in the second round Tuesday. Mars finished the season 19-7.

Mihali Sfanos had a shot from the baseline blocked by Luke Pierson in the final seconds.

Mars was 0 for 5 shooting in overtime and held the ball for 45 seconds on one possession only to have it end in a turnover.

With Carmody out, Mars inserted 5-7 freshman Tasso Sfanos into the starting lineup. He did not score in the first half, but had 14 points over the final two quarters.

Aside from senior Joey Craska, the Fightin’ Planets played a junior (Mihali Sfanos), two sophomores (Zach Schlegel and Chrisotpher Dvorak and Tasso Sfanos for the majority of the night. Elizabethtown started four seniors and a sophomore.

The Fightin’ Planets were 3 for 18 from outside the arc to start the game and fell behind by nine points midway through the second quarter. Then they caught fire. Schlegel and Mihali Sfanos had a pair of 3s each in a 12-2 run that ended on a Craska 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Mars a 28-27 lead at halftime.

“Down nine in the second quarter and without Michael against a veteran team, they had some reasons to say that maybe this wasn’t their night, but they kept fighting,” Coach Carmody said.

The teams stayed within six points the rest of the game and exchanged the lead seven times.

One area that hampered Mars without Michael Carmody was rebounding. The Bears secured a dozen offensive rebounds and scored 13 points off of them.

“I would be lying if I said Michael doesn’t make a difference, because he’s the leading rebounder in the country,” Coach Carmody said. “He takes up a lot of space, but we’re more than capable of rebounding the basketball. We missed some box outs, we were out of position a couple times and we had a couple of basketballs in our hands that they were able to get away from us. It wasn’t for a lack of fight or want, but when you play a veteran team that happens.”

Mihali Sfanos led Mars with 15 points and Craska scored 13. Elijah Eberly scored 16 for the Bears and Pierson had 12.

Mars was in the state tournament for the ninth consecutive season. Without Michael Friday, Coach Carmody got a look at what the future of the program holds and he liked what he saw.

“I’m hurting for our seniors that don’t get to do this anymore,” Carmody said. “Every group is unique. If our young guys can continue to work and improve and take this lesson and the lesson from (losing in the WPIAL championship) last week and move forward, that excites me about the future of this program.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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