Union boys hold on for first-round win
Union (66) Vs. Winchester Thurston (57)
By Clay Sauertieg
New Castle News
It wasn't what anybody would call a masterpiece, but the Union High boys basketball team got the job done Friday night.
The fifth-seeded Scotties put four players into double figures on their way to dispatching of 12-seed Winchester Thurston, 66-57, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 1A playoffs at Northgate High School.
Both teams started the contest slowly, shooting the ball poorly from the field and the line. Union (17-6) held a slim 9-7 lead after the first period thanks to active hands on defense and a solid offensive showing from senior Dom Dudo, who had five points in the quarter.
Freshman Nate Meeks stepped up for the Scotties in the second quarter to help spark the offense, knocking down three 3-pointers in the frame as they extended the lead to 22-17 heading into the intermission.
"He's not afraid," Union coach Mark Stanley said of the freshman. "He'll make some mistakes, but he's not afraid to make mistakes. He gets his shot off quick and if he gets eight to 10 shots up there's a possibility he's going to make four or five. We knew there were some spots that would be open and this was a good game for Nate. For a freshman to do that in a playoff game, that's clutch."
Dudo started the second half with a nice up-and-under move to score two more as Union continued the momentum on offense in the third quarter. The Scotties buried four triples, two from junior Evan Pinkerton, and scored 22 points in the quarter to extend the lead to 44-36 after three.
"We were able to put some shots down in the second half," Stanley said of the offensive outburst. "I thought in the first half we threw it away too much and I think we were rushing. They were intimidating us a little bit inside with the blocked shots and then Dom came out, got some looks and we knocked some threes down. Tre (Charles) was able to get to the basket and things opened up a little bit."
The Bears were unable to close the eight-point gap at all in the fourth quarter as Union continued to execute its offensive sets. Charles, who came into the contest leading the Scotties in scoring, knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:08 to go to push the lead to 51-38 and Union never looked back, icing the game at the line down stretch.
"He's a tough cover," Winchester Thurston coach Jason Marks said of Charles. "He's a very good player. We came into the game knowing that we have to take him away with our press and a couple times he was able to dribble right through it."
Meeks and Pinkerton each finished the game with 12 points, while Dudo chipped in with 10. Charles, meanwhile, scored a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
"We have to play better, I know that," Stanley said of his team's performance. "But like I said, we're moving on. We have three more practices. We're going to get in, shoot, and try to get better. But we're happy to be where we're at and any time you advance at this point you need to play better."
The Scotties advance to the second round on Thursday where they'll face fourth-seeded Clairton in a rematch of a PIAA play-in contest from last season that the Bears won 52-43.
"In 2013 we played them twice, last year we played them in a playoff game. We've played them during the regular season before," Stanley said. "So we're familiar with them. We know they're athletic and that they're going to compete. So we're going to have to take care of the ball, rebound, give them one shot and hit our open shots and we'll see what happens."