Sean Snead’s 3-pointers lead Obama past Penn Hills in PIAA 1st round

Friday, March 6, 2020 | 9:23 PM

A first-half shot can’t be called a game-winner, especially one that only ties the score, but the energy from Sean Snead’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer was felt long after halftime.

“I was electrified,” said Snead, who scored a game-high 25 points with five 3s to lead City League champion Obama Academy past Penn Hills, 73-63, Friday night in a PIAA Class 5A first-round game at Brashear.

It wasn’t technically a game-winner, but Obama might not have won without Snead’s last-second shot. Penn Hills had just grabbed the lead with a 20-5 run and Obama was reeling. Snead stopped the slide with his 3 and sent the teams to halftime tied 35-35.

“Huge,” Obama coach Devas Simmons said. “That stopped the momentum. That stopped the run. … Now we have a tied ballgame and we’re a second-half team.”

Obama started the third quarter with a 10-3 run including consecutive 3s by Snead in a 16-second span. The second gave the Eagles a 45-38 lead near the 5-minute mark and they never trailed again.

Snead went 5 for 7 from the arc.

“They carried a little momentum into (the third) by hitting that 3 at the end of the half,” Penn Hills coach Dan DeRose said, “and we came out a little flat.”

Dashon Cruse scored 16 points for Obama and Sayon Bennett added 10.

Obama (16-8) advances to face District 3 runner-up Milton Hershey (21-4) on Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. This was a bad night overall for WPIAL teams in Class 5A. Combined, Penn Hills, Laurel Highlands, Mars, Thomas Jefferson, Chartiers Valley and South Fayette went 0-6.

Three times, Penn Hills cut the deficit to one in the second half, including 59-58 with 3 minutes left in the fourth, but couldn’t reclaim the lead. Penn Hills tried furiously to trap Obama, but ended up committing 12 more turnovers than it forced (25-13).

“It’s supposed to be the other way around,” DeRose said. “For whatever reason, down the stretch (this season) we have not done a good job of taking care of the ball. You’re throwing possessions away.”

Obama took 69 shots to Penn Hills’ 53.

Wes Kropp led Penn Hills (18-6) with 19 points, Kyree Mitchell had 16 and Ed Daniels added 12. The Indians went 2 for 10 from 3-point range including 1 for 9 in the second half.

“We know that a basketball game will have its ebbs and flows,” Simmons said. “Everybody’s going to get a run, but who can play defense?”

“We just trust in each other,” Snead said. “I don’t think any team can play defense like this.”

This was a matchup between the City League champion and the No. 5 seed from the WPIAL playoffs. Obama won the city title for the first time this season, but the Eagles weren’t seeking validation against Penn Hills.

“(People) don’t have to give us credit,” Simmons said. “We’ve just got to keep playing hard. We’re not worried about what’s outside of us. We’re just worried about what’s in here.”

Obama has won 16 of 20 since starting the season 0-4. Along with nonsection games against WPIAL finalists Mt. Lebanon and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in December, Obama scheduled defending PIAA Class 6A champion Kennedy Catholic twice.

“The city has a lot of good ball players and we have a lot of good coaches,” Simmons said. “We played a lot of tough games on the road early in the year. Everybody counted us out. We don’t.”

Obama led Penn Hills, 27-15, after the first quarter behind seven points apiece by Snead and Bennett. The Eagles finished the quarter on a 10-2 run highlighted by a steal and dunk by Snead.

But Obama’s lead dwindled quickly in the second quarter as Penn Hills started with an 11-1 run. Obama’s lead was down to 28-26 after two free throws by Daniels around the 4-minute mark.

Obama scored four consecutive points, but Penn Hills answered with a 9-0 run. DeAndre Mitchell made a go-ahead 3-pointer, Daniels added a layup and Penn Hills led 35-32 with less than a minute until halftime.

The Indians seemed headed to the locker room with momentum until Snead’s tying buzzer-beater.

“It was a momentum changer,” Simmons said.

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

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