Recchia’s late 3-pointer helps Mars defend WPIAL Class 5A championship

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Friday, March 1, 2019 | 10:33 PM


Andrew Recchia was the only person at Petersen Events Center who already knew how this WPIAL championship would end.

“I dreamt about it last night, actually,” he said.

The Mars senior saw the ball in his hands, the clock running down and him making the winning shot.

“Call me a liar,” Recchia said with a smile and a shrug.

What everyone should call him is a two-time WPIAL champion. Recchia made a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left Friday night as defending champion Mars erased a 16-point second-half deficit and defeated Moon, 58-56, in the WPIAL Class 5A final.

The 5-foot-11 guard dreamed that the shot would be a little closer — more like a pull-up jumper, he said. Instead he used a screen from Michael Carmody, slid to his left and sank a straight-on 3-pointer from the top of the key — a shot that should stand among the legendary game-winners in WPIAL championship history.

“Last year I thought was the best feeling ever, but wow!” said Recchia, a Shippensburg commit who scored a game-high 23 points. “There’s not really a word or phrase for this. It’s really a dream come true.”

Third-seeded Moon (23-2) had led 34-18 just after halftime before top-seeded Mars (24-1) came storming back to take the lead with 4:24 left — the first of seven lead changes in the closing minutes.

Among them, Recchia stole an inbounds pass, drew a foul and made two free throws with 48 seconds left to lead 55-54. Moon’s Austin Ryan answered with a driving jump shot at the 24-second mark to retake the lead, setting up Recchia for the game-winner.

“People talk about a lot of players in the WPIAL and obviously we’ve got some really good ones,” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “But in the second half in a championship game, to do that? Unbelievable.”

Michael Carmody intercepted Moon’s long inbounds pass as time expired.

“It’s probably the hardest loss I’ve been a part of, to be honest with you,” said Moon coach Adam Kaufman, whose Tigers were trying to win their second title in three years. “You can only have one winner, but these kids deserved to win that game.”

Moon had led by 14 points at halftime and scored the first basket of the second half before Mars sparked a 28-11 run that stretched well into the fourth quarter. The Planets took a 46-45 lead when Khori Fusco made two free throws with 4:24 left.

The lead was their first since 4-2.

“If we’re down, you’d better keep us down,” Rob Carmody said. “Because if we get back off the mat, we’re good enough to fight you and battle and battle.”

Moon entered with the WPIAL’s stingiest defense, allowing only 46.3 points per game. But after surrendering just 18 in the first half, the Tigers allowed 40 in the second.

“I don’t think we defended nearly as effectively (after halftime). I don’t think we were as focused,” Kaufman said. “It was almost like we breathed because we felt that we had that lead.”

Donovan Johnson led Moon with 13 points and Jioni Smith had 12. Austin and Connor Ryan each added 10 for the Tigers, who led 16-8 after the first quarter.

The second-half run was a team effort for Mars. Brandon Caruso scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, Khori Fusco finished with 12 points and Michael Carmody added nine points and 16 rebounds.

“I knew we weren’t going to quit,” Rob Carmody said. “But I didn’t know that with the lead they had and as good as they are, that we were going to be able to make a comeback.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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