Shenango survives last-second scare to top Lancers
Shenango (54) Vs. Neshannock (51)

Neshannock’s game-tying shot had a chance.

“Please don’t go in,” begged Shenango’s Bryan Chieze.

The basketball hit the backboard.

“I was speechless,” teammate Chris Grant said.

The ball clanged off the inside of the hoop.

“It hit the rim!” shouted Shenango High coach Bob McQuiston.

No good.

“Wow,” Wildcats forward Rich Gaston said of the finish.

Neshannock boys basketball player Mike Conglose made five 3-pointers last night, but it was his miss from half-court as time expired that had all of the Shenango players and coaches buzzing after the Wildcats pulled off a 54-51 road win in WPIAL Section 2-AA play last night.

“(Conglose) is a great shooter, so anytime he shoots it looks good,” McQuiston said.

As improbable as the game ended, Shenango (2-3 section, 9-6 overall) might have lost if not for some stellar bench play.

Trailing 18-17 early in the second quarter, Gaston, the Wildcats leading scorer, picked up his third foul and was forced to the bench, where he joined fellow starters Mike Murcko and Ryan Tanner, also in foul trouble.

No problem.

Reserves Ricky Ferrari and Jesse Noca hit baskets to give their team the lead. Chieze, the team’s starting point guard, hit two foul shots, took a charge, and made an off-balance runner in the lane to give the Wildcats a 30-20 lead before halftime.

McQuiston said last week that his team needed someone to be a leader — to take (and make) big shots.

Chieze was his guy last night.

“He stepped up his play and took it to the hoop tonight,” McQuiston said of Chieze, who had 19 points. “I never have to question his heart. Ever.”

The Lancers (1-4, 4-8) — with Gaston still on the bench — made a push midway through the third quarter, with a Bobby Nittinger jumper sandwiched around two Conglose 3-pointers, to cut the lead to 38-35.

No problem.

Grant, who has been seeing more minutes off the bench of late, came right back and hit a three to up the lead to 41-35.

“Chris Grant gave us great minutes, and some really good defense, too,” McQuiston said.

If you told Lancers coach Jim Smiley prior to the game that Gaston, Murcko and Tanner would sit the majority of the game, he would have had to like his chances.

“But we didn’t capitalize on any of it,” Smiley said. “They opened the lead with (the reserves) in.”

Neshannock got as close as 41-40 on a Michael Richards foul shot and 49-47 on Conglose’s last 3-pointer with 2:09 left in the fourth.

But the Wildcats appeared to be in good shape, making 3 of 4 free throws in the last minute to go up 54-49 with eight seconds left.

Conglose drove for a layup, and Smiley immediately called timeout.

Inbounding under the Neshannock hoop, Shenango tried a long pass to Chieze, who was being double-teamed.

Conglose tipped the ball, took two dribbles and just missed.

It didn’t surprise Smiley how this wild game ended. He’s seen it too many times.

“All of our section games came down to the wire,” Smiley said. “This is the most snake-bitten team I’ve ever coached.”

He went on to blame himself for his team’s performance.

“I gotta take a hard look at what we’re doing. We are treading the fine line between success and failure.”

Conglose had 19 points, with Richards adding 11 and Nittinger 10 for the Lancers.
Game Scoreboard
Shenango 13 17 11 13 0 54
Neshannock 14 13 10 14 0 51
Box Scores
Field Goals Attempted Foul Shots Made Foul Shots Three Points Total Points Fouls
Brian Chieze7741190
Rich Gaston420080
Andrew Watson022020
Mike Murcko411090
Ryan Tanner200260
Jesse Noca111030
Rick Ferrari100020
Chris Grant200150
#21 Tony Kirkwood143050
#22 Mike Conglose7005190
#23 Michael Richards3750110
#33 Bobby Nittinger4320100
#50 Eric Bruening000000
#3 J.T. Graham100020
#25 Rob Davis200040
#44 Ryan Iorio000000
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