Scotties clean up in opening round
Union (0) Vs. Bentworth (0)
IMPERIAL — The garbage man was Union High’s meal ticket in the first round of the WPIAL Class A boys basketball playoffs.
Union came on in the second half to defeat Section 3 champion Bentworth, 88-74, in a first-round game played Friday night at West Allegheny High School. The Scotties had a balanced offense with all five starters in double figures.
Markel Peace led the way with 23 points and Benjamin Young added 17, including a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. But the star of the night was Tre Major, the player Union coach Dave Smialowski affectionately calls the team’s “garbage man.”
Major finished with 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds, although it seemed as if he grabbed more stray shots than that. He also had the unenviable task of guarding Bentworth senior Gannon Walls-Mitchell, a 6-foot senior who weighs 240 pounds.
Walls-Mitchell scored 30 points and did a lot of his damage when Major wasn’t in the game.
“He was big and it was just hard to get around him,” Major said. “I was trying to use my body weight on him but he was pushing back and he’s a lot bigger than me.”
It should be pointed out that Major, a 6-2 junior, tips the scales at a slender 170 pounds. He picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter trying to guard Walls-Mitchell and went to the bench. And it didn’t help the cause when Union point guard Drew Robinson, who scored 10 points, collected his third foul with 3:48 left in the first half.
“I call Tre our garbage man because he gets all the loose rebounds around the basket,” Smialowski said. “We preach to him all the time, ‘Finish strong, finish strong,’ and that’s what happens when (he does) that.
“What happened the first half was Walls-Mitchell was beating Tre down the floor and that’s when he got in foul trouble. The second half, he bought into what we were trying to sell to him and started beating (Walls-Mitchell) own the floor.”
Plus, Union changed its defense some and started to sag players toward the middle to help out on Walls-Mitchell. Robinson did a good job of sagging and slapped the basketball away from him a couple of times.
Union, which upped its record to 12-9, held an 11-point lead in the first quarter but Bentworth cut the margin to 21-18 at the close of the period.
The score was tied, 33-33, at the intermission. The game remained close the first three minutes of the third quarter, but that’s when Union pulled away.
The Scotties ran off 12 consecutive points to take a 53-39 lead with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter. But Bentworth rallied and was down by only six points, 57-51, going into the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats stayed hot at the start of the final period and pulled to within 63-62 on a three-point play by Scott Wytovich with 5:20 left to play.
That’s when Young made perhaps the shot of the game.
He rushed down the court and connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Union on top by four points. The two teams then exchanged baskets until the Scotties went up by six on two free throws by Young and a fastbreak layup by Peace with 3:20 left.
Walls-Mitchell made one of two free throws 12 seconds later but Union scored three consecutive field goals with Major scoring twice, once on a follow-up of a miss by Peace. Major also hustled down the floor on a Union fastbreak, grabbed the rebound when it rolled off the rim and slipped a pass to Peace for an easy layup.
“That was a big 3 for us,” Smialowski said of Young’s shot. “I know (Bentworth) likes to play fast but I think we wore them down some at the end.”
Smialowski said he had watched films of Bentworth and that Walls-Mitchell had not done much in the games he saw, but that he had talked to a couple coaches and they told him Walls-Mitchell could be tough.
“He was a little better than what we thought. He’s thick,” Smialowski said of Walls-Mitchell. “We had some jitters out there but I’m proud of the way we handled things. Tre had a great game.”
Union advances to the quarterfinals and will take on No. 2 seed North Catholic, a 66-38 winner against Carmichaels last night. North Catholic has 6-10 Jonathan LeGrande in the middle. That game will be Friday at a site and time to be announced.