Greyhounds rally only to come up short
Wilmington (52) Vs. Bishop Canevin (61)
Mar 16, 2017
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News
WEXFORD — What started out as a rout turned into a nail-biter and ended up a heartbreaker for the Wilmington High boys basketball team.
The Greyhounds trailed by 22 points early in the second quarter, only to rally to within four points with the basketball with 40 seconds remaining in the game.
But, the comeback fell short as Bishop Canevin held on for a 61-52 victory Thursday evening in the second round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at North Allegheny High School.
“This team just has something special,” Wilmington coach Mike Jeckavitch said. “They battle from start to finish. We battled back and battled back, but it just wasn’t quite enough.”
Wilmington entered the fourth quarter trailing, 49-38. But layups by Robert Pontius and Spencer DeMedal quickly made it a seven-point game.
Following a free throw by the Crusaders’ Walter Bonds, Pontius drained a 3-pointer from the right elbow to draw the ‘Hounds to within 50-45 with 3:34 remaining in the contest.
“Anytime the ball goes in the basket for you and doesn’t for the other guy, it builds confidence,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Trost said. “That’s what happened there with Wilmington. I thought they just were able to get some momentum.”
Bishop Canevin, the WPIAL’s third seed, pushed its lead back to nine points, 55-46, on a basket by Julian Bonds and a trey from Mitchell King sandwiched around a Tyler Kish free throw.
But the ‘Hounds weren’t finished, as DeMedal scored off a steal and later scored on a drive with 39.4 seconds remaining in the game to cut the deficit to 56-52.
“He’s been our rock,” Jeckavitch said. “He’s been our catalyst. Every time we needed a big basket or a big shot, we looked to him. He’s always responded.”
Wilmington, however, would get no closer, as the Crusaders were good on 5 of 7 free throws down the stretch to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals.
“It feels great to be moving on,” Trost said. “Survive and advance I guess is kind of the mentality at tournament time. We’ll take it. Wilmington’s a very good team. They’re District 10 champs for a reason.”
The Greyhounds started the game well, grabbing a 6-4 lead on Reese Bender’s pull-up jumper.
But Bishop Canevin answered with a 26-2 run that lasted from the 4:13 mark of the first quarter until the 6:30 mark of the second quarter. Wilmington’s lone bucket during that span came on a DeMedal drive with 2:14 remaining in the opening stanza.
“We struggled to guard them with our man-to-man because of their quickness,” Jeckavitch said. “We talked about locating shooters. They we getting a little deep on us with their dribble penetration, and that’s when the kick outs would occur. Credit to them, they took care of the offensive end in the first half.”
Three-pointers by Kellan Gustine, Eugene Goodwine, Walter Bonds and Julian Bonds powered the Crusaders during the spurt.
“We shot it really, really well to start,” Trost said. “I think we turned them over a little bit at the beginning of the game, too. I don’t think we could have played any better in the first quarter, and they probably couldn’t have played any worse. It kind of evened out after that.”
The Greyhounds used a 14-2 run of their own late in the first half to cut to deficit to 10 points. DeMedal led the way with six points, Pontius chipped in with five markers and Kish had an old-fashioned three-point play to pace Wilmington.
King’s pull-up jumper with six second remaining gave the Crusaders a 34-22 lead at the break.
Wilmington held a slim 16-15 advantage in the third quarter to set up the exciting final frame.
DeMedal led the Greyhounds with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Pontius finished with 18 points, including four 3-pointers.
King paced the Crusaders with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Walter Bonds had 17 points and Julian Bonds 14.
Wilmington, which wrapped up the season at 19-8, captured the program’s first District 10 title with a 59-51 victory West Middlesex. It was the Greyhounds’ first basketball crown since winning the WPIAL in 1987. Wilmington finished in third place in Region 2 behind Rocky Grove and Greenville with an 11-3 mark.
“I’m going to remember the heart that this team brought,” Jeckavitch said. “We started the season 2-5 and we won 17 of our last 20 games. These guys should be completely proud. They did something the school’s never done before. This one’s going to hurt a little bit, but we’re gonna be proud of the job they did all season.”
The game marked the final one in blue and gold for seniors DeMedal, Kish, Bender and Joey Pezzano. According to Jeckavitch, that quartet will be missed.
“They were the rocks,” he said. “Joey and Tyler were new additions as of the last two years and Reese and Spence have been with me for four years. I’ll just remember their leadership and their maturity. I’m going to miss them a lot.”
Bishop Canevin (21-5) will face the WPIAL’s No. 2 seed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals Saturday. The Chargers (20-8) defeated District 6 champion Bishop McCort, 60-55, Thursday night.