Young Knoch rallies to defeat Beaver in Class 4A boys first round

Friday, February 16, 2024 | 10:11 PM

Knoch coach Alan Bauman bristled when it was suggested his team’s first-round playoff opponent, Beaver Area, was coming into the Knights’ gym Friday night having played a highly challenging regular-season schedule.

The Bobcats competed in Section 2-4A along with top-ranked Lincoln Park and No. 5 North Catholic.

“We’re pretty good, too,” Bauman said, moments after No. 8 seed Knoch overcame an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat No. 9 Beaver, 52-48, and advance to the quarterfinals against top-seeded Lincoln Park on Wednesday at a site to be determined.

A trio of sophomores led the way for Knoch (15-8), with 6-foot-7 Derek Lang scoring 17, Teegan Finucan 14 and Jackson Bauman 12 for the Knights, who used an 17-5 run over the final 6 minutes to erase a 43-35 deficit.

“Give credit to our young guys,” coach Bauman said. “We hit some shots, and we were able to win.”

Trailing by eight points, Knoch started its comeback when Lang swished a long 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the Beaver lead to five.

“Just happy that we could pull out the win,” said Lang, who has polished his game at an early age with the help of his brother, Allegheny College guard Ryan Lang, a Knoch graduate, who is one of three Gators who are averaging double figures in scoring this season.

“I’ve played a lot of basketball with him. He’s helped me quite a bit with my shot.”

After the Knights got within four on two free throws by Finucan, Jackson Bauman’s 3-point shot pulled Knoch within 44-43.

A layup by Brady Mayo, who led Beaver (12-11) with 17 points — eight below his season average — pushed the Bobcats’ lead to 46-43 before another Bauman 3 pulled Knoch even at 47-47.

“We thought if we could be us, like we normally play, at any amount of that game, we were going to be OK,” Alan Bauman said.

Beaver regained a one-point advantage on 1 of 2 free throws by Nick Krzeczowski before Finucan scored on a baseline drive to put Knoch ahead for good 49-48.

“Our kids never stopped defending, and that’s the real reason why we were able to have a chance to win,” Alan Bauman said.

Knoch, which started four sophomores and a junior, made things interesting in the closing seconds, missing 3 of 4 free-throw attempts.

But, after Mayo’s potential tying shot misfired, Beaver fouled Zarian Finucan, who connected on a pair of free throws with 7 seconds left to give the Knights their four-point margin of victory.

“We had a great year again this year, probably better than people anticipated,” Beaver coach Casey Kaiser said.

Knoch’s 1-3-1 defense frustrated the high-scoring Mayo early on before the junior guard began to get going.

“Brady’s been special all year, and even on a bad night, he had 17,” Kaiser said. “Normally, those shots are falling for him. At times, they don’t. He adjusted and got some other guys involved.”

Evan Baker added 11 points, and Krzeczowski finished with 10 for Beaver.

Meanwhile, Alan Bauman wasn’t allowing himself just yet to look ahead to Knoch’s next opponent, powerful Lincoln Park. He just wanted to enjoy the rest of this night.

“Beaver is a really good team. We respected the heck out of them,” Bauman said. “We’re going to enjoy this and really take it in.”

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