Richland shuts down South Allegheny in PIAA Class 3A second-round matchup

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 8:59 PM


South Allegheny played catch-up throughout its PIAA Class 3A second-round game Wednesday night.

The Gladiators found themselves pressing to get back into the game against Richland. But the pressure of chasing the Rams proved too much, as South Allegheny dropped a 68-58 decision, ending its remarkable season.

“It seemed like all night long, we would get it down to a possession or two, and then we would relinquish that and it would be back to six, eight or 10 before we’d know it,” Gladiators coach Tony DiCenzo said. “That’s tough. We could never just get that one key stop or that one key basket.”

There were moments it seemed like South Allegheny could overtake the Rams. Early in the third quarter, the Gladiators (24-3) took a 33-31 lead. But the Rams had an answer, as Koby Bailey nailed a 3-pointer to take back the lead.

South Allegheny struggled to contain Richland’s offense for continuous stretches, as the Rams hit nine 3-pointers and constantly found good looks at the basket.

Bailey led his team with 18 points to lead four Rams in double figures.

Richland took a 45-36 lead into the third quarter and put the game away a minute into the fourth quarter, pushing its lead to 14 points.

The closest the Gladiators got from that point was a six-point deficit with three minutes left before going cold from the field.

“We knew going in that they run their stuff really well. It’s kind of a complicated system, a continuity set. They wait for you to miss an assignment or fall asleep,” DiCenzo said. “Credit to them. Everytime we did, their guys stepped up and made big shots.”

Conversely, the Gladiators struggled to find a rhythm on offense.

South Allegheny’s big three of Bryce Epps, Omar Faulkner and Antonio Epps got their points, scoring 25, 15 and 12, while the rest of the team scored six combined.

Players like Wesley Degorgio, Ethan Kirkwood and Dillon Hynes are usually able to knock down perimeter shots. But the Rams did a good job of limiting penetration from the Epps brothers, eliminating potential kick-out opportunities for 3-pointers and jumpers.

“They did a hell of a job taking us out of our stuff,” DiCenzo said. “We weren’t able to get guys shots that we’ve gotten them all year long. Those role guys that stepped into wide-open shots all season had a hand in their face, and it made it difficult for them to have success.”

Richland started to find its stride at the end of the first quarter, using an 8-2 run to take a 17-13 lead. A 7-0 run to start the second quarter pushed its lead to 11.

South Allegheny came back, cutting the lead to three at halftime and briefly leading in the third quarter, but Richland (19-7) was able to counter.

South Allegheny, though, will remember this game, and its WPIAL semifinal loss to North Catholic. The whole team returns next season and more will be the expectation.

“Playing in these big games and these important moments is going to build our character and carry us into the offseason with a lot of confidence,” DiCenzo said. “I think it’s going to make our guys hungry.”

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