Yough boys blitzed by Penn Cambria in fourth quarter in PIAA defeat

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Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 8:39 PM


CRESSON — Yough was up by nine points with six minutes to play in its first PIAA boys basketball playoff game since 2005.

The Cougars, though, didn’t feel comfortable.

There was something about this Penn Cambria team, with its nonstop hustle and rapid-fire 3-point shooting, that had Yough on edge and clutching the lead like a winning lottery ticket.

No, the District 6 champions would not to go quietly in the Class 3A first round Saturday, and they staged a frenzied comeback to steal one from the Cougars, 61-53, at Mount Aloysius.

It was like Penn Cambria drew the first three quarters in pencil so they could erase and start over in the fourth.

Long-bombing Penn Cambria (22-5) ended the game on an 18-2 run, scoring the final 13 points behind a barrage of 3s.

The Panthers made 11 of 30 3s for the game — and only nine 2-pointers — and junior Easton Semelsberger made a career-high six of them, including three in the fourth when his team outscored Yough, 21-8.

“That’s been our M.O. all year with the 3s,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “We live and die with that. We started to get some shots to fall. Easton stepped up huge.”

Yough (17-10) led 49-40 after back-to-back baskets by 6-foot-6 junior Austin Matthews. But senior Vinny Chirdon and Semelsberger made 3s, and senior Garrett Harrold hit a short jumper.

Junior guard Terek Crosby finished a drive, then connected on a jumper to put Yough up 53-48 with just under four minutes left.

But that was the last bucket Yough scored, as the Panthers, the District 6 4A champ last year, went berserk down the stretch to seal the victory.

A short bench finally might have caught up to the Cougars, who routinely played six in the postseason but could not seem to close out on shooters quick enough.

“We knew they could shoot,” Yough coach Jim Nesser said of the Panthers. “They made a ton of shots. I thought we did some good things with our zone. But I thought we looked tired all night. The effort wasn’t good enough. We didn’t get it done. It’s that simple.”

Semelsberger made a 3, and Harrold scored off a rebound to tie it 53-53 before Semelsberger struck again to give the Panthers their first lead at 56-5 with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining.

Crosby was called for a charge, and senior Parker Rost fouled out. The Panthers then made 5 of 7 free throws inside the final 50 seconds.

Harrold, a Duquesne quarterback commit, had a game-high 24 points, including nine in the fourth. He made 9 of 12 free throws.

Semelsberger finished with 18, all on six 3s, and Chirdon had nine on three 3s.

“We’ve been in a lot of games like this, with the big-time shifts,” Ronan said. “Once we get a lead, these guys aren’t going to let it get away. We have kids who play football, basketball and baseball and start in all three sports. They’re tough kids who have been in big moments.”

Crosby finished with 20 points, and Matthews had 15. Senior Ty Travillion added 13 for the Cougars.

Matthews’ size bothered Penn Cambria and made the offense work from inside-to-out to set up shooters.

The Panthers couldn’t drive to the basket, so they made a concerted effort to catch and shoot.

They did that like the last quarter was the final rack in a 3-point contest.

On defense, a triangle-and-2 look, similar to what the Panthers used to upset Bishop Guilfoyle in the district final, did its best to limit Crosby.

“We did a better job against (Matthews) in the post,” Ronan said. “Once Crosby gets past you, it’s over.”

Yough led 13-11 after one quarter and 28-25 at halftime.

The Cougars took a 45-40 lead after three as Crosby, who was stripped of the ball by senior Zach Grove, recovered to pin Grove’s layup off the backboard on the other end in the final seconds of the quarter.

Nesser will have Crosby and Matthews back next season. Yough won a section co-title and played back in the consolation bracket to finish seventh in the WPIAL and reach the state tournament.

Penn Cambria advances to play Steel Valley (16-10) in the second round on Wednesday.

The Panthers made 12 of 15 free throws. Yough was 3 for 4. The Cougars did not make a 3 in the second half.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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