Surging Jeannette boys overwhelm Winchester Thurston in quarterfinals
Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 5:53 PM
Count Winchester Thurston boys basketball coach Justin Walther among the believers in surging Jeannette’s WPIAL title chances.
“They’re loaded,” he said. “I think they’ve got a chance to win it all.”
The Jayhawks won for the seventh time in a row Saturday at home in the Class 2A quarterfinals and did so convincingly, drubbing Winchester Thurston, 83-38, to avenge an early-season loss to the Bears.
Keith Rockmore’s 19 points led Jeannette (15-4), which has won eight of its past nine games — the only blemish a two-point loss to Class 3A Seton LaSalle. Hunter Schmidt added 16 points, and Anton Good had 12.
No. 5 seed Jeannette advances to Wednesday’s semifinals against top-seeded and unbeaten Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (19-0), a 57-42 winner in the quarterfinals against No. 8 Shenango.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “We’re going to continue to play the way we play.”
Jeannette’s pressure overwhelmed No. 13 Winchester Thurston (9-5) on Saturday as the Jayhawks scored the game’s first 10 points and led 28-2 after one quarter.
Despite Jeannette’s physical, trapping style, Winchester Thurston attempted just 12 free throws. The Bears made nine, and all but one of the attempts came in the second quarter when the Bears outscored the Jayhawks, 23-22, to make it 50-25 at halftime.
It was a contrast to the previous meeting Jan. 15, a come-from-behind 65-60 victory for Winchester Thurston, which made 30 of 37 free throws compared to 10 for 14 for Jeannette.
“It was a tough game,” Batts said. “We learned from it, and we’ve gotten better for it.”
Batts said it was a night-and-day difference between the two games.
“Our guys were ready to play today,” he said. “We started out great down there in the first game and had a lead, and then we stopped playing. When you go to Winchester Thurston, it’s a tough place to play, and those kids are confident on their home floor.
“This is a bigger floor. We knew we were going to press. We played hard, shared the ball, rebounded excellent, made shots … When you start the game with five straight layups, you’re able to build some momentum.”
Jackson Juzang led Winchester Thurston with 21 points, 11 coming in the second quarter. The 5-foot-11 Juzang scored 36 in a preliminary-round victory over Jefferson-Morgan.
“We let them get some momentum, a lot of it at the foul line,” Batts said. “We’re aggressive, and we’re going to foul some, but I liked what I saw out there today. The kids really stuck with the gameplan. We finally have our entire team together, too.”
On Saturday, however, Batts lamented the absence of 6-foot-2 freshman Brad Birch, a key reserve who missed much of the season recovering from a broken bone in his foot.
Birch, the Jayhawks’ star quarterback, skipped the game to take part in a 7-on-7 football tournament in Michigan.
“I’m a little disappointed about that,” Batts said. “Today would have been his fifth game back. He does so many little things. He’s a big part of us.”
More High School Basketball• Winning never gets old for Chartiers Valley girls basketball
• Riverview, Plum athletes look forward to final high school basketball game
• Fox Chapel’s Eli Yofan picks up first Division I offer
• Sam Salih resigns as Greensburg Central Catholic girls basketball coach
• PIAA basketball committee wants state semifinals on weekend, not weekday