Poor shooting leads to Union’s demise
Vincentian (49) Vs. Union (40)
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
This is the type of game it was for the Union High School boys team Tuesday night.
With the Scotties trailing by two points early in the third quarter, Anthony Forletta stole the basketball and got it to Anthony Thomas, who drove to the basket. Cut off by a Vincentian defender, Thomas then flipped a pass to an open Andre Jones, who lost the ball out of bounds.
A chance for an easy two points went down the drain.
“We missed some easy chances. We just never could get into a rhythm,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said.
The end result was a disappointing 49-40 loss to Vincentian Academy in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Union finished the season with a 14-6 record. Vincentian (15-6) will play Serra Catholic Friday in a quarterfinal.
Union certainly had its chances but had a terrible shooting night. The Scotties connected on just 5 of 26 attempts from 3-point range and made just 17 of 54 field-goal attempts.
“We had looks,” Smialowski said. “We stressed to the players that we wanted to get to the glass but we struggled to get any offensive rebounds.”
Anthony Thomas finished with just 13 points, which is half of what he has been averaging this season. He did have two rim-rattling dunks off breakaways, but made just two of eight attempts from 3-point range.
Damian Trott did a little better and connected on 3 of 6 3-point attempts, but Vincentian defenders stepped out on him so he couldn’t get shots off, especially in the fourth quarter.
Vincentian coach George Yokitis knew his team dodged a bullet in the game at Keystone Oaks High School.
“They are a much better shooting team than they showed tonight,” he said of Union. “We were fortunate they didn’t shoot the ball well. We saw them on tape and when they’re on they are tough.”
To Vincentain’s credit, it was able to handle Union’s relentless full-court pressure, especially in the second half. And when the Scotties did force a turnover or come up with a steal they had trouble converting the opportunities into points.
“I thought we kept our composure. That was a big key for us,” Yokitis said.
After trailing by as many as five points late in the third quarter, Union come on to close the gap to 36-35 on a layup by Nate Major with 18 seconds left in the period. Vincentian crept away to a 40-36 lead at the start of the final quarter, but Thomas tied the score at 40-40 when he banked in a 12-foot jumper in the lane with 3:42 left to play.
At that point it looked as if Union had the momentum, but Vincentian’s 6-foot-4 John Bray got loose for a layup and after a 3-point attempt by Thomas that looked good rimmed out, Mike Darby drove for a layup and four-point Vincentian advantage.
That’s when things really started to come apart for Union. The Royals went ahead by six when Chris Koryak, who led Vincentian with 16 points, tipped in a missed shot. Union then came up empty on a pair of 3-point attempts at the other end with just more than a minute remaining.
Vincentian closed out the contest by connecting on 3 of 5 free-throw attempts in the final 59 seconds. Speaking of free throws, Union attempted just two in the contest and those didn’t come until the fourth quarter.
“If we had gotten the lead we were going to spread them out and force them to really try and defend,” Smialowski said. “But we never got the lead.
“Hey, I’m proud of the way our seniors played this year. I’m proud of the way all the players performed. The seniors are the first group I’ve had all the way through since taking over as head coach.
“We’ve been to the playoffs three years in a row and that’s something to be proud of. There aren’t very many teams that can say they’ve done that.”