Scheduled to close, Vincentian Academy ends basketball season with emotional PIAA loss

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 1:44 AM


This was the teary-eyed postgame talk that coach Tim Tyree dreaded, one that he and his Vincentian Academy players tried to delay for as long as possible.

Season-ending speeches are tough.

Program-ending speeches are tougher.

“I didn’t want to deliver that one,” Tyree said. “The look in front of those kids, to know that we’ll never get together again, there won’t be any practices after this, it’s tough. That’s family to me.”

The emotional scene was inevitable once the small Catholic school announced last month that it was closing its doors. Vincentian Academy had hoped its final game might be in Hershey, but the Royals fell behind early Tuesday night, battled foul trouble and lost 74-54 to District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley in a PIAA Class A second-round game at Hempfield.

They were on the wrong side of a 21-0 second-quarter run and never recovered.

“Once everybody leaves this room, they will go their separate ways,” Tyree said. “We’ll play pickup again. We’ll all be in the gym together. But it will never be like (tonight). When you have to deliver that (message), it’s tough.”

Sophomore Matt McDonough led Vincentian (22-5) with 14 points and junior Alex Griggs added 10. The team’s roster has only three seniors, so the other 10 players must enroll elsewhere this summer. Wherever they go, Tyree told them, he’d always be around if they needed him.

“I’ve been here the same time he’s been here, so when he said that speech, it really hit me hard,” Griggs said. “He’s like my older brother.”

In Tyree’s three seasons as coach, Vincentian went 61-22, won two WPIAL titles (2018, ’20), was the WPIAL runner-up once (2019) and finished second in the state last winter. That’s hard to leave behind, as a coach or player.

“You came here wanting to finish four years,” Griggs said. “Having this be our last game, having to go to another school, is tough. But we’ll get it done, wherever we go next year, each of us.”

Elijah Sechler led Berlin Brothersvalley (27-1) with 29 points including 12 in the decisive second quarter.

Vincentian led 19-13 early in the second after an alley-oop by sophomore Priest Ryan and a 3-pointer by McDonough. But the Royals then went scoreless for the next 7 minutes, stung by four offensive fouls. Berlin Brothersvalley scored 21 consecutive points to lead 34-19 at half.

In all, Vincentian was called for seven offensive fouls.

Those whistles left Griggs and Angelo Reeves both in foul trouble and stunned an offense that likes to drive to the basket.

“Those calls changed the way our players were playing inside,” Tyree said. “Some of them were questionable for me, bang-bang plays. I tell my team all the time, when you get outside the district in the state playoffs, we don’t know who we’re going to draw as officials … so you can’t leave it up to the officials.”

Griggs had three fouls in the first half and drew his fourth with about 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Reeves also ended the third with four fouls.

“When they call charges like that, it can take our momentum, as you saw,” said Griggs, who fouled out late in the fourth.

At one point, Griggs and Ryan drew offensive fouls less than a minute apart. Taking charges was part of the plan, said Berlin Brothersvalley coach Tanner Prosser, a Brentwood native.

“That was going to be a key to the game,” Prosser said. “We talked about it since we got the film and saw what they were all about. We knew we were going to have to take multiple charges to win this game.”

Vincentian also didn’t shoot particularly well. The Royals went 5 for 22 from 3-point range, which hindered any comeback effort. They were outscored 19-17 in the third and 21-18 in the fourth.

“When we look back, it will sting for some weeks,” Tyree said. “But I’m proud of what those kids accomplished over this season, especially over the last couple of weeks.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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