Wilmington 66, Shenango 57

Forget a big-screen television and don’t even think about a new DVD player.

All Shenango High boys basketball coach Bob McQuiston wanted for Christmas was to watch a great shooting performance.

He did — from his opponent.

In what has become a painful trend, the Wildcats’ shooting struggles continued last night in a 66-57 loss to Wilmington in the opening game of the Union Boosters boys basketball tournament.

McQuiston put the blame on himself.

“I have to get better as a coach and put these guys in better position to get better shots,” he said.

Perhaps he should blame Wilmington junior guard Shane Wagner for making his job extra tough.

Wagner scored 24 points, sinking an incredible 7 of 11 shots from behind the arc.

He made them every way possible: Pulling up off a fast break to give his team a 19-11 lead in the second quarter; off a high pick-and-roll to stop a Shenango run in the third quarter; a rainbow from the deep corner on which he was fouled, to push the Greyhounds’ lead to 36-29; and another on a kick-out to give his team a nine-point lead early in the fourth.

“We’ve been waiting for his coming-out game and tonight was it,” Wilmington coach Will Harris said. “He’s definitely our go-to guy.”

The game was tied at 26 at the half, and it seemed as if the Wildcats (7-6) had some momentum. Forward Rich Gaston scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half, having his way with the smaller Wilmington post players.

He hardly got the ball the rest of the game.

“Our post defense got much better in the second half,” Harris said.

And all the while, the ’Hounds kept scoring and scoring and scoring.

Jake DeMedal popped a 3-pointer from the wing, Chris Burns went over everyone to get a rebound and a putback, Ryan Foht worked down low for two easy buckets and then Wagner swished another three.

It was 57-42 with 2:30 left.

Then, from out of nowhere, Shenango finally started to hit some shots.
Jesse Noca came off the bench for a three. Bryan Chieze made three triples in a row, the last coming with 1:37 remaining to cut it to 60-54.

“We know we’re always in the game — always,” McQuiston said.

It was just too little, too late.

What Burns lacks in height, he makes up for with speed, leaping ability, strength and effort.

The 5-foot-10 Pitt football recruit scored 12 points (all inside), and grabbed seven rebounds (all emphatic) while continually getting past the taller Wildcats’ post players.

Foht added 10 points, while DeMedal (nine points, six rebounds) and Carson Sharbaugh (seven points) rounded out a balanced night for the starting five.

Chieze took over late, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. He added seven rebounds and six assists. Gaston finished with 19 points and 13 boards.

The Wildcats will face the loser of tonight’s Laurel-Union game at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the consolation contest. Wilmington faces the winner at 8 for the championship.
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