South Allegheny tops Ligonier Valley, serves notice in Class 3A

Thursday, March 4, 2021 | 9:56 PM

Top-seeded South Allegheny opened up postseason play with a statement victory Thursday.

The Gladiators featured three players in double figures and ran away with a lopsided 75-36 triumph over No. 17 Ligonier Valley in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

SA’s three-headed monster of Antonio Epps (20 points), Bryce Epps (13) and Omar Faulkner (11) combined to score 44 points, allowing the Gladiators (15-4) to advance to play No. 9 Seton LaSalle in the quarterfinals Monday.

“It’s a credit to our guys because Ligonier Valley came in as a much better basketball team than they were at the beginning of the season,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiCenzo said. “It was good to come out and get the first one under our belt convincingly. Now, we’re going into the next round with a ton of confidence.”

While Ligonier Valley (5-11) struggled offensively, the play of senior Isaac Neidbalson helped lead the way.

Neidbalson poured in a game-high 21 points in his final high school game.

“That was a great way to end it. On a personal note, he played a fantastic game,” Ligonier Valley coach Tim Gustin said. “It wasn’t the team result we wanted, but it’s great to see a senior end their career like that.”

SA held a commanding 23-8 lead after the first quarter behind seven points apiece from Antonio Epps and Faulkner, and six from Bryce Epps.

The Gladiators extended that lead in the second, outscoring the Rams by a 15-7 margin to take a 38-15 advantage into halftime.

A 12-5 run in the opening three minutes of the third pushed the SA lead to 50-20, enacting the running clock.

The Gladiators, who won the third by a 16-10 margin, went on to outscore the Rams, 21-11, in the fourth as Ayden Sloss highlighted the frame with six points off the bench.

“We knew it was a playoff game and in the playoffs, you’re one-and-done and anything can happen,” DiCenzo said. “No matter who the opponent was, we were going to respect them and put forth our best effort.”

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