Shenango Tops Rochester, 64-51
Rochester (51) Vs. Shenango (64)
By Dan Irwin

Shenango High started off fast last night against Rochester, then suddenly cooled off.

Mike Murcko knows the feeling. His season has gone much the same way.

However, both the Wildcats and Murcko enjoyed strong finishes against the Rams, walking away with a 64-51 WPIAL Section 2-AA victory at home.

Shenango (4-3 section, 11-6 overall) bolted to a 24-13 first-quarter lead, with Bryan Chieze knocking down 14 of his 17 points — including three 3-pointers — during the period. Shenango stretched its advantage to 30-17 early in the second quarter, but Chieze did not score again until nailing another trey at the third-period buzzer.

In the meantime, the Rams battled back to get within five points on three occasions, including 44-39 with 2:27 left in the third stanza.

“I thought Rochester played tough defense and I think that had a lot to do with that,” Shenango head coach Bob McQuiston said of his team’s mid-game drought. “They got up in our shooters’ faces after they hit a couple, and forced us to do some other things we didn’t necessarily want to do.

“Bryan didn’t have the open look as much (after the first quarter) but what he was doing was getting other people involved. We’ve been going through some droughts on offense and maybe taking some quick shots, but I thought Chieze did a good job of pulling it out and trying to get some better shots.”

And when he did, Chieze knew just who to look for.

“It’s nice to have two 6-5 guys inside,” he said, “with Rich (Gaston) finishing well tonight, and Mike Murcko stepped up and made some big shots in the second half.”

Gaston was a steady force throughout the game, netting 23 points. However, when the junior forward picked up his third personal foul late in the third quarter, followed by his fourth midway through the final frame, he suddenly had to take a little extra care around the basket.

Enter Murcko, who finished with 14 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

“Mike is one of the best shooters on the team,” McQuiston said. “He’s got a real soft touch around 15 feet. He came in tonight and knocked down some good shots for us, without a doubt.”

Murcko, who also had a team-high eight rebounds, broke out of a bit of a personal slump with his effort against the Rams (2-5, 5-9). After averaging 13.2 points through Shenango’s first 11 games, he had managed just 26 points total in the Wildcats’ last five. He was scoreless twice during that stretch.

“I’ve been struggling at the plate,” he said. “Thankfully, my teammates didn’t give up on me. They kept passing me the ball and finally I was able to get a few to fall, and it just started rolling.

“I’ve been struggling in rebounding and missing some box-outs, too, so I tried to work on that tonight. Hopefully, I took a step in the right direction.”

Gaston scored from underneath with 2:12 left in the third period, and when Chieze countered with his 3-point buzzer-beater, the ’Cats took a 49-39 lead into the final frame.

Rochester got back within seven, 51-44, but Murcko’s fourth-quarter surge and game-long struggles at the foul line sealed the Rams’ fate. Rochester was 5 of 18 from the charity stripe for the game, including 3 of 9 over the final 4 1/2 minutes.

“We have our droughts, but we came back tonight and weathered it,” Gaston noted. “Bryan did a good job of getting me the ball, and (Murcko) came out strong in the end, which was good. We needed that.”

Game Scoreboard
Rochester 13 16 10 12 0 51
Shenango 24 12 13 15 0 64
Box Scores
Field Goals Attempted Foul Shots Made Foul Shots Three Points Total Points Fouls
Brian Chieze6314170
Rich Gaston9850230
Jesse Noca000000
Ryan Tanner122050
Mike Murcko6220140
Andrew Watson210050
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