Vincentian Academy had the third-highest scoring offense in WPIAL Class A boys basketball this season, averaging nearly 66 points.
Yet the Royals didn’t score for the first two minutes of their PIAA quarterfinal playoff game Friday and netted only 13 points in the first quarter as they trailed Cornell by 11.
No worries for the Royals though, as they outscored the Raiders, 56-35, over the final three quarters on their way to a 69-59 victory at Northgate.
Vincentian Academy improved to 19-8 overall and 2-1 against Section 1 rival Cornell this season.
“For this team for whatever reason, we’ve had a lot of slow starts,” second-year Vincentian Academy coach Tim Tyree said. “We had a slow start here, but we were able to get things together in the second quarter.”
The Royals came storming back in the second quarter, scoring 14 of the first 16 points in the quarter to grab their first lead at 27-26.
The half would end with Vincentian Academy riding a defensive high from yielding only seven Cornell points in the second quarter and holding a 33-31 lead at the half.
“We’ve been preaching all week in practice that you really have to own it defensively,” Tyree said. “We know Kaden DiVito is a great scorer. He has a very quick release. He got some shots to fall in the first quarter, but we really tightened it up in the second.”
The two teams came out in the third quarter going back and forth with four lead changes until Vincentian Academy took the lead for good at 38-37. The Royals then outscored the Raiders, 11-2, to take control and lead by seven after three quarters.
Cornell pulled to within three points at 51-48 early in the fourth, but could get no closer as Vincentian Academy hit its free throws down the stretch.
A handful of underclassmen led the way for the Royals.
Junior Ethan Embleton scored 18 points while sophomore Angelo Reeves added 16.
Cornell had no answers for the two 6-foot-6 forwards who dominated down low.
“They owned the boards,” Tyree said. “We knew we had the size advantage so we just wanted them to own it on the boards, and they answered the call.”
Sophomore Alex Griggs and freshman Matt McDonough both scored 13 for the Royals.
Cornell junior Kaden DiVito led all scorers with 24 points as the Raiders’ season ended 21-6.
Vincentian Academy is now on to the state semifinals for the first time since 2011 and will face Tyree’s alma mater, Monessen, the team the Royals beat in the district semifinals 61-49.
“Round 2,” Tyree proclaimed. “I know it’s great for them. Obviously, being an alumnus, this is big for me. We’re going to get these guys ready to go, and we’re going to give our best effort.
“We really want to be playing for the championship.”