Uniontown survives scare from Belle Vernon

Friday, January 24, 2020 | 10:27 PM

After a 27-point beating at the hands of Uniontown Jan. 3, the Belle Vernon Area boys basketball team wanted nothing more than another shot at the Red Raiders.

They got it Friday and gave No. 2 Uniontown all it could handle.

A pair of free throws by Keondre DeShields with five seconds remaining ended up the difference as the Red Raiders escaped the Leopards’ den with a 59-57 win, their closest win of the season.

“I’m really proud of the way we played,” Belle Vernon coach Joe Salvino said. “This was a great game. There was no doubt this week at practice how bad they wanted it. We played well, and while it’s disappointing, we can take something positive out of this. We competed with them and had a good chance at the end.”

DeShields hit a pair of free throws with 20.7 seconds to go to give the Red Raiders (14-1, 7-0) a 57-53 lead, but Devin Whitlock grabbed the inbound pass and went coast to coast for a layup to cut the lead back to two.

After Billy DeShields missed the front end of a one-and-one, BVA’s Mitch Pohlot grabbed the rebound but lost the ball out of bounds. Uniontown returned the favor after the turnover with one of their own on the ensuing inbound play with just under 12 seconds to go.

Cam Nusser, who led the Leopards with 18 points behind four 3-pointers, got the inbound pass and flew up the court for a layup. He drew contact on the play but didn’t get a foul call.

The Leopards were forced to foul Keondre DeShields, who made the winning eventual winning free throws before BVA’s Mitch Pohlot scored down low as time expired.

“We took the ball and got it down the floor quick. That last time, I thought there was a foul, but nothing was called,” Salvino said. “But we played well.”

The Leopards (13-5, 5-2) came into the game looking to take away Uniontown’s penetration on offense.

“I wanted to cut down the penetration and for the most part, I think we did,” Salvino said. “I was willing to give up some of the outside shots, but to their credit, they hit some of them. I thought we played well defensively, though.”

The Red Raiders finished with nine 3-pointers in the game, three each for the DeShields brothers. Both finished with 15 points.

Uniontown used a 12-3 run in the first quarter to take a 15-8 lead. But the Leopards closed the gap late in the frame and ended it with a Thomas Hepple alley oop from Devin Whitlock to make it 15-11.

Over the final 27 seconds of the first and 2:08 of the second, BVA capped off a 12-0 run to take a 20-15 lead.

Hepple scored seven of his 13 points in the span.

“Thomas did a great job for us. Him and Jared (Hartman) really gave us a big lift on the boards,” Salvino said. “That was something we knew we had to do well coming into the game.”

The teams exchanged baskets throughout the quarter with Keondre DeShields hitting a trey with 1:40 left to cut the BVA lead to 27-26 going into the half.

“The difference in the second quarter was we knew we had to be selective with the ball,” Salvino said. “We knew we weren’t going to run with them. We got tired at one point and turned the ball over a few times. That wasn’t going to work for us.”

Nusser started the second half with a 3-pointer and Pohlot scored on a putback to give the Leopards a 32-26 lead.

They led 34-31 midway through the frame until the DeShields boys combined for seven of the next nine Uniontown points to give the Red Raiders a 41-36 lead.

BVA answered the spurt with a 7-0 run behind a three-point play from Pohlot and a Whitlock layup with 25 seconds to go in the quarter to give the Leps a 43-41 lead.

Billy DeShields busted through the packed-in BVA defense for a finger roll with 16 seconds to go to tie the game heading to the fourth.

The teams exchanged the lead four times in the final eight minutes. Billy DeShields hit a pair from the line with 2:14 remaining to make it 53-51 Red Raiders. But Whitlock answered again, busting through the defense to get to the basket for a layup.

After Isiah Melvin scored inside to give the lead back to the Red Raiders, the Leopards again had a chance to take the lead or tie down 55-53.

After battling for an offensive rebound, Pohlot dished to Hartman, who had Nusser alone in the corner for a potential 3-point attempt, but the pass slipped through his fingers and went out of bounds.

“The biggest thing now is this game is done and over. We need to let this one go. We can’t replay it,” Salvino said. “We had them. They just put the ball in the hole one more time than we did. I told them I’m proud of them, but now, I want to be in second place by ourselves. We don’t want to share that with anyone else.

“We have three big section games, two on the road at South Park and Ringgold next week. We have to put this one behind us. I hope they come out mad and take it out on South Park on Tuesday. I think this is the type of team that will do that.”

Pohlot finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Leopards. Jahmere Richardson (14) and Ray Robinson (10) combined for 24 points for the Red Raiders.

The Leopards face South Park on Tuesday and Uniontown faces Ambridge at the PBC Hall of Fame Classic at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

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