South Allegheny clamps down on Seton LaSalle in Class 3A quarterfinals

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Monday, March 8, 2021 | 9:59 PM


When South Allegheny entered the halftime locker room leading by 13 in Monday’s WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal matchup, there was a mutual sense of disappointment felt by the group.

The Gladiators led Seton LaSalle by as many as 21 points midway through the second quarter before the Rebels finished the frame on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 36-23.

“We weren’t happy with how we finished that first half,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiCenzo said. “I thought we did a really nice job early of making them earn and making it difficult for them to score, and then we let them creep back into the game. We were confident in where we were, but we wanted to tidy some things up and make it a little bit more difficult on them.”

Top-seeded SA tightened up on defense in the second half and held the opposition at bay, allowing just seven points en route to a convincing 58-30 victory over No. 9 Seton LaSalle.

The Gladiators (16-4), who allow a Class 4A-low 42.8 points per game, outscored the Rebels (10-9) by a 12-5 margin in the third quarter before limiting them to just two points in the fourth.

“It’s a credit to our guys because their effort was outstanding. When you hold a quarterfinal playoff team to seven points in a half, you’re doing something right,” DiCenzo said. “It’s all about effort and buy in. It doesn’t take talent or skill to play defense. It takes desire, and that is what these kids can control. We focus on it all the time, and it’s a reason why we’re going to the semifinals.”

While the momentum was in the Rebels’ favor to start the second half, Seton LaSalle struggled to gain any type of fluidity on the offensive end.

Senior Nick Ault scored on a free throw with 4:49 on the clock for the Rebels’ first point of the half. It was also the only Seton LaSalle point during an 8-1 run in which Bryce Epps and Omar Faulkner each scored four points, extending South Allegheny’s lead to 44-24.

Both teams scored four points apiece in the final four minutes of the frame, allowing SA to take a 48-28 advantage into the fourth.

Jacob Scarff, a 6-foot-10 senior, scored Seton LaSalle’s lone bucket of the final frame as he was limited to just eight points in the loss. Michael Canavan led the Rebels with 10 points, all of which came in the first half.

“They went on that run (at the beginning of the third), and when you’re down by 13 at halftime against a good team that has a lot of experience, that hurts you,” Seton LaSalle coach Mark Walsh said. “I knew when the 3A bracket came out, and I think everybody knew, that if we got matched up against South Allegheny, it was going to be a game where we had to play really well.

“I give total credit to South Allegheny and their defense. For us to score seven points in the second half, that’s a credit to their defense.”

South Allegheny used a 13-4 run in the final five minutes of the first quarter to take a 19-8 lead.

The Gladiators continued to shoot lights out by outscoring the Rebels 15-5 in the first three and half minutes of the second to up their lead to 34-13 before Seton LaSalle’s late rally.

SA went 6 for 10 from beyond the arc in the first half with Antonio Epps hitting four of those clutch treys.

“If they make six out of 10 3-pointers in the first half of another game, they’re going to have a tough time losing in 3A,” Walsh said.

SA was once again led by its big three as Bryce Epps, Antonio Epps and Faulkner combined to score 46 of their team’s points. Bryce Epps led the way with 18 points, while Antonio Epps and Faulkner each added 14.

“They’ve been consistent all year. When they come out and score the ball in the manner they did to start the game, it makes it tough for other teams,” DiCenzo said. “It’s really difficult for another team to come in and take all three of them out, and then when you add our role guys in who consistently make big plays for us, we’re a difficult team to defend.”

South Allegheny now turns its attention to a semifinal matchup with No. 4 Aliquippa (12-5), which defeated No. 12 Laurel, 59-50, on Monday. The Gladiators will be making their second straight trip to the semis after falling at the hands of North Catholic last season.

“We’ve wanted to get to this point where we’d be able to avenge that loss from last year,” DiCenzo said. “We knew that was the next step for us and we’re eager, excited and happy we’ve been able to live up to the expectations to this point. Now we’re just looking to kick that door down.”

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