Wilmington’s playoff hopes take hit
Wilmington (39) Vs. Sharpsville (51)
Feb 18, 2012
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
SHARPSVILLE — The District 10 playoffs were in the Wilmington High boys basketball team’s hands at the start of the week.
Now, the Greyhounds’ postseason fate lies in the grasp of the district’s selection committee.
Sharpsville shut down Wilmington in the fourth quarter last night en route to a 51-39 Region 2-AA home victory.
The Greyhounds (5-5 region, 9-13 overall) must wait to see if District 10 gifts them with one of the at-large playoff spots. Wilmington let a golden opportunity of locking up an at-large spot slip through its grasp on Tuesday in a 54-40 road loss to last-place Mercer.
“Hopefully they’ll look at our schedule and see that we’ve played a really hard nonconference schedule and we went .500 in the league,” Wilmington coach Mike Jeckavitch said. “I still believe that we are one of the eight best teams in double-A in District 10 and I hope they feel the same way.
“I’m not sure if they will or not. We knew going into the Mercer game that if we won, we’d be in. We had a really bad game against them. The kids knew if we won tonight we’d get second place. We just didn’t make enough shots or enough stops.”
A Greyhounds victory would would have forced a tie for second place in the region between them and the Blue Devils. Wilmington would have owned the tiebreaker with a win last night by virtue of claiming the first matchup.
The win seemingly clinches a playoff berth for Sharpsville (7-3, 14-8), which nailed down second place outright with the win.
The playoff criteria in District 10 is not as standard as it is in the WPIAL. The pairings will be announced this weekend.
“I would hope we’re in,” said Blue Devils coach Jim Smiley, who was a longtime coach at Neshannock. “We’re in second place all by ourselves now and that’s big.”
Sharpsville held a 33-31 lead after three quarters. Wilmington’s Jordan Smith tied the contest at 33 with a basket 36 seconds into the final frame. But Dallas Klenke drained a 3-pointer with 7:08 to play to put the Blue Devils up for good at 36-33.
Klenke’s bucket started a downward fourth-quarter spiral for Wilmington, which was outscored 18-8 in the period.
“It seemed like every offensive possession we had, we were kind of battling ourselves,” Jeckavitch said. “We have confidence in our shooting, but it’s not our strength.
“Our strength is getting to the basket.”
The Blue Devils committed just eight turnovers, two came in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t turn the ball over and we played pretty good fundamental basketball in that fourth quarter,” Smiley said.
The Greyhounds started strong, scoring the game’s first seven points and eventually pushed the lead to 16-7 early in the second quarter. Then Smiley made a switch to a zone defense.
“They had us back on our heels but we persevered,” Smiley said. “It was almost like I was trying to pound a square peg in a round hole. We worked to our strength a little bit.”
The switch doomed Jeckavitch’s squad.
“They’re normally a man-to-man, trapping team,” he said. “I knew they could potentially go zone on us. We do struggle with the zone at times.
“When our shooters aren’t on, the shot selection isn’t exactly the greatest. We were prepared for that and we understood it could happen. Once they went zone, it disrupted our whole flow. We were going to try and push the ball a little more tonight, but they kind of slowed down our whole offense.”
The Blue Devils rallied late in the first half, forging a 20-all tie at the break.
Smith paced the Greyhounds with 13 points and Matt Bowen was next with 12. Vince Pitzulo tossed in 10.
“Jordan has been getting better every day,” Jeckavitch said. “I didn’t feel like we utilized him enough tonight in the post. I thought he could have had more opportunities.”
Smith played in 21 games this year, netting 95 markers — 37 of which came against the Blue Devils.
“In the two times we’ve played him, we’ve put Smith on the all-state team,” Smiley said. “He killed us out there.”
Klenke netted a game-high 16 points for Sharpsville.
Smiley feels Wilmington has a strong case for a playoff spot.
“I would think the region is deserving of three playoff teams,” he said. “Wilmington is an athletic basketball team. I don’t see any reason why they can’t compete with anybody.”