Wilmington falls short in upset bid
Wilmington (55) Vs. Fairview-Class AA (61)
By Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News

The Wilmington High boys basketball team nearly pulled off the upset last night.

The Greyhounds had Region 4 champion Fairview on the ropes for most of the game before dropping a 61-55 heartbreaker in a District 10, Class AA quarterfinal clash at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.

“We told the kids that all we need is for 16 guys to believe,” Wilmington coach Mike Jeckavitch said. “That’s the 12 kids on the team and the four coaches. That’s all we needed. I didn’t think of us as underdogs. I thought of us as a team to be reckoned with.”

The Tigers (21-2) will face Reynolds, a 47-43 winner over Seneca, on Tuesday at a time and site to be announced.

“I always tell people when you come to the playoffs, 20-2 and 12-10 don’t matter anymore,” Fairview coach Keith Nies said. “You’re 0-0. When they came out with the pairings, I knew we had a tough draw with Wilmington. They were second in their region all year. They have some strong and physical kids. I knew we were going to be in for a game. Everybody up here (in Erie County) thought it was going to be a blowout. I tried to tell my kids for three days that we’d have to play well to win. I give Wilmington all the credit in the world, they had us on the ropes. We just made a few more plays than they did. It was a great high school basketball game between two great teams.”

Wilmington (12-11) came out of the gates on fire, making 6 of 11 field goals in the first quarter to take a 18-15 lead into the second quarter. Four of the field goals were 3-pointers.

“We’re a team that can put the ball in the hole pretty easily,” Jeckavitch said. “Once shots start falling, more shots will start falling for us. We were pretty unconscious in the first half.”

The ’Hounds were able to maintain their lead throughout the next two quarters until Fairview closed the third period with a 12-0 run to take an eight-point lead (44-36) into the final eight minutes.

“I thought our defense was poor in the first half,” Nies said. “I don’t know if it was my kids or what Wilmington was doing against it. We talked at halftime about playing a little bit harder and a little bit tougher. I thought Wilmington was a lot tougher than us in the first half.

“We started that run when we started to make a couple shots. Once we started to make a couple shots, our confidence started to pick up. Our pressure started to pick up and we were able to get a lead.”

Rocco Fagan fueled an 11-2 Wilmington run with three 3-pointers as the ’Hounds took a 47-46 lead midway through the four quarter.

Marc Corbin countered by scoring Fairview’s next seven points to hand the Tigers a 53-52 lead, but the ’Hounds took a 55-53 advantage on a Jesse Hilliard layup and a Spencer DeMedal free throw.

Shannon Jackson knotted the score at 55 with a layup with 1:13 to go and Harold Coles provided the game-winner on a steal and a layup 18 seconds later. Andy Niland canned four free throws over the final 24 seconds to seal Fairview’s victory.

“At the end of the third quarter, I told the kids that Wilmington was going to come back at you and they did,” Nies said. “I give Wilmington a lot of credit. They’re resilient. I give my kids a lot of credit, too. Once they came back, we stuck with it instead of hanging our heads. We made a couple key plays offensively and a couple of big defensive plays.

“In the fourth quarter, we were guarding Fagan. He made a couple shots. Sometimes, you have to shake their hand and say ‘Good shot.’ There’s nothing you can do.”

Wilmington committed 20 turnovers, including at least four charges.

“We say that we need to value the ball,” Jeckavitch said. “They were slapping at the ball as we were driving in our offense. I told the guys to keep the ball in front of us instead of on the side of us. They were tough turnovers. We were driving to the rim. I didn’t want to settle for jump shots the whole game. Things happen.”

Fagan scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, while also registering 10 rebounds and three steals.

“We want the ball in his hands at most times at the end of games,” Jeckavitch said. “He was feeling it and asked me to keep feeding him the ball. He made the other team pay. Rocco can put bunches of points together at key points. He did that tonight. He really carried us through this game.”

Travis Brumbaugh tossed in eight points for Wilmington, while Jordan Smith added seven points and six boards. Dan Danus came off the bench to block three shots.

“We executed our game plan to perfection,” Jeckavitch said. “We got stops when we needed to and got critical buckets when we needed to. Overall as a team, I think this might have been our best game even if it’s in a losing effort. We have nothing to be ashamed about and nothing to hang our heads over. I’m so proud of these guys.

“We’ve been in these situations before. That experience in those games really propelled us to be able to withstand that run and know we can’t get it all back in one possession. We have to scratch back into the game. We did a really good job. We made a lot of stops and got a lot of rebounds. We may have lost by six, but it was really a one-possession game.”

Jackson led three double-digit scorers with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Fairview, while Niland and Corbin each had 12 tallies.

Wilmington will lose seniors Josiah Bloise, Danus, Fagan, Hilliard and Smith to graduation.

“My five seniors, I’m going to miss them,” Jeckavitch said. “They’re the heart and soul of this team. They’re the leaders on and off the court. When tough times happen, they’re there to pull us through. They showed their character as a bunch. They led us through the tough times when we were down eight. I knew those five guys would come through and put their best foot forward.”
Game Scoreboard
Wilmington 18 10 8 19 0 55
Fairview 15 11 18 17 0 61
Box Scores
Josiah Bloise 1 2-2 5
Jesse Hilliard 2 2-3 6
Rocco Fagan 7 4-4 23
Travis Brumbaugh 3 1-2 8
Jordan Smith 3 0-0 7
Dan Danus 0 0-0 0
Spencer DeMedal 1 3-4 6.
Totals: 17 12-15 55.

Ben Kocan 2 0-0 5
Andy Niland 3 4-4 12
Marc Corbin 5 2-4 12
Shannon Jackson 6 2-2 14
Harold Coles 4 1-2 9
Dan Dewey 3 0-0 9
Stephen Rinderle 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 23 9-12 61.
WILMINGTON 18 10 8 19 — 55
FAIRVIEW 15 11 18 17 — 61
3-point goals — Wilmington 9 (Fagan 5, Smith 1, Brumbaugh 1, Bloise 1, DeMedal 1), Fairview 6 (Dewey 3, Niland 2, Kocan 1).
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