Scotties claim title, remain perfect
Union (61) Vs. Laurel (49)
By JOE SAGER
The Union High boys basketball team didn’t spend much time celebrating its championship last night.
Sure, claiming victory at its own Holiday Classic Tournament with a 61-49 win over Laurel is nice for the Scotties.
So is pushing their record to 7-0.
But, Union remains focused on winning a WPIAL Section 1-A crown — and more.
“We are playing hard. We’re getting a little bit of a bull’s-eye on our back because we’re undefeated, but we haven’t done anything yet,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “That’s what I keep stressing. There is a long way to go, but let’s keep building on this. I am proud of our intensity from start to finish because Laurel is a physical team.”
The teams were engaged in close battle for a majority of the first three quarters. The Scotties held a 17-15 edge after the first and a 34-29 margin at halftime.
The hosts built the lead to seven points in the third quarter before the Spartans (4-3) cut it to 47-45 at the end of the frame.
“We weren’t worried because I know these kids and their resiliency. They’ve come back in some games this year,” Smialowski said. “Laurel gets after it, though. They are a physical bunch and I told the kids they had to be ready for that. I am proud of how we handled it.”
Laurel tied it at 47-all in the fourth quarter, but struggled the rest of the way as the Spartans tallied only one more basket in the final 6:34.
“The kids were ready to play. But, to beat an oustanding team like Union, you have to shoot well. We missed some layups. We got to the basket, but we just didn’t finish,” Laurel coach Mike Tinstman said. “It was that simple, especially in that fourth quarter. We had some shots, but you just have to be able to finish to beat a team like that.
“Hopefully, we’re still going to continue to improve. We’re disappointed right now. We didn’t come over here to lose. But, to beat a team like that, you have to play very well and we didn’t play quite well enough.”
The Scotties turned up the defensive heat in the fourth quarter.
“We tell the kids to take it personally and they did. They got after it,” Smialowski said. “We cooled off their penetration and we did a nice job with a lot of their backscreens. I was pleased with their effort.”
Tournament MVP Anthony Thomas led all scorers with 28 points. He tickled the twine for 27 points in the team’s opening-round win over Shenango as well.
“The kid has been carrying us. What more could you say?” Smialowski said. “He just does so many good things out there. I am proud of him. He is playing hard.”
Anthony Forletta added 12 points for Union, while all-tournament team selection Devonta Thomas had 11.
Jake Dando led Laurel with 21 points and earned all-tournament honors. He had 16 points in Monday’s 64-43 win over Wilmington. Eric Wallas had eight points and Mike Natale added seven. Tyler Forbes had five points and was named to the all-tournament team.