It’s finally over
Laurel (53) Vs. Shenango (48)
By Dan Irwin
New Castle News
First place wasn’t up for grabs. No postseason berth was on the line.

But after Laurel High held off Shenango, 53-48, in WPIAL Section 2-AA action last night, senior Josh Finley reached for the superlatives.

“This is the best win in three years,” he declared.

What made the home court victory so sweet was its rarity. It was the first section win for the Spartans since a 54-51 triumph over Riverside on Feb. 8, 2011. That was one of just two league wins for Laurel that year, and until last night, it had gone 0-23 since then.

“We worked so hard,” said Finley, who was a huge part of the breakthrough with 18 points and 15 rebounds. “This is the hardest we’ve worked all season, and I’m just proud of our whole team. It was hard, but we just tried to keep our heads up, and Coach (Ken) Locke helped us through it.”

Locke, in his first year at the Spartans’ helm, shared his players’ jubilation.

“These guys have been waiting for this,” he said. “The seniors, most of them weren’t playing the last time we got (a section win), so it was important to them.

“I keep telling them that if they keep improving, keep playing with that intensity, good things will happen. After saying that to them enough times, they proved it right.”

Laurel (1-11, 5-15) used a height advantage provided by the 6-foot-6 Finley and 6-4 junior Josh Dando to outrebound the Wildcats, 45-24, while also luring two of Shenango’s big men — 6-2 junior Brian Tanner and 6-3 sophomore Brenton Booher — into foul trouble. The former picked up his fourth personal with just over two minutes left in the third period, and the latter was assessed his with 6:31 left in the game.

That scenario sent Finley and Dando (who had 11 points) to the charity stripe with regularity, and the pair combined for a 14-of-16 effort, including 8 of 8 in the third quarter.

“Their inside game hurt us,” said Shenango head coach Bob McQuiston. “Finley, he’s a big strong kid and I thought Dando did a good job on the glass. They got a lot of second and third shots, and that hurt us.

“We weren’t aggressive enough on the offensive end. They were attacking the glass and we didn’t.”

Locke also had praise for Finley.

“We’ve been telling him all year he needs to do a little more, get in there and battle, and I was impressed with him tonight,” he said. “We knew he could do it. He’s done it at times; tonight he did it for four quarters.”

Shenango (3-9, 7-12) got 21 points from Greg DePorzio, and it was he who attempted to can his fourth three-pointer of the night with about 20 seconds left and the Wildcats trailing, 51-48. Dando, though, not only blocked the shot, but also grabbed his own rejection. Shenango was forced to foul seconds later, and freshman Jacob Wilson drained two foul shots with 14 ticks showing to clinch the win.

It was a 180-degree turnaround from last Friday, when New Brighton sank a buzzer-beater to force overtime and eventually hand Laurel an 80-73 setback.

“I didn’t want to remind them of that, because you don’t want to say anything negative; you want them to have confidence,” Locke said. “We just said, ‘Listen, we need one more stop, that’s all you guys need.

“He made a big play right there and that’s all we needed.”

Game Scoreboard
Laurel 12 15 10 16 0 53
Shenango 16 9 9 14 0 48
Box Scores
Greg DePorzio 6 6-7 21
Brian Tanner 0 0-0 0
Ryley Ferrari 1 0-1 3
James Jacobs 2 0-0 4
Brenton Booher 4 0-0 10
Josh McCormick 1 0-0 2
Shaun Conner 0 0-0 0
Matt Pherson 2 0-0 4
James Micco 2 0-1 4
Ryan Smith 0 0-0 0
Totals: 18 6-9 48

James Steele 0 0-0 0
Stephen Avery 4 0-0 9
Josh Dando 2 6-6 11
Josh Finley 5 8-10 18
Scott Siddall 2 1-2 5
Jacob Wilson 2 6-9 10
Noah Wertz 0 0-0 0
Zachary Wilson 0 0-1 0
Damian Steele 0 0-0 0
Totals: 15 21-28 53

SHENANGO 16 9 9 14 — 48
LAUREL 12 15 10 16 — 53

3-point goals — Shenango 6 (DePorzio 3, Booher 2, Ferrari 1 ); Laurel 2 (Avery 1, Dando 1).
JV score: Shenango 56, Laurel 29. High scorer: S — Christian O’Hara 15, Ryan Smith 12; L — Scott Siddal 12.
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