Laurel knocks off Shenango in section finale
Laurel (66) Vs. Shenango (62)
Feb 06, 2009

Though his team was eliminated from contention earlier this week, Laurel High head coach Mike Tinstman still is thinking playoffs.

The Spartans surprised Shenango, 66-62, in both teams’ WPIAL Section 2-AA finale last night at the Wildcats’ gym. The win gave the Spartans (4-8, 8-12) season sweeps over Rochester and Shenango, both of whom are playoff bound as the league’s third- and fourth-place teams, respectively.

“I’m happy with the effort our team gave tonight,” Tinstman said. “But I’m disappointed because you see we beat Shenango twice and Rochester twice, so you know it’s possible.

“It’s not that they didn’t play hard all season, but we always had a quarter where our size, or a mental mistake, cost us a ballgame.”

Still, Tinstman isn’t going to lament for long over missing this year’s postseason — not when next year’s playoffs suddenly seem like a most reachable goal.

“We’re playing for pride now, and if it were an all-senior team, it would be difficult,” he said. “But we don’t have any seniors on the team. Hopefully, we can learn from this and our last game on Monday (a nonleague contest at Springdale) and really understand what it takes to win. It takes a total of 32 minutes.”

That may be so, but the Spartans appeared to take control of last night’s game during an eight-minute stretch spanning the last half of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth.

Trailing 37-35, Laurel went on a 21-11 run fueled by some deadly perimeter shooting. Mike Natale drained a pair of 3-pointers during the rally, while Eric Wallas (17 points overall) and Tyler Forbes (21 points) each had one.

“They were driving against our man,” Shenango head coach Bob McQuiston said, “so we went zone, and they hit some threes.

“If they’re beating you off the dribble in the man and they’re hitting the threes in the zone, you’ve got to decide what you want to do. We ended up going man, and it kind of cost us tonight.”

Shenango battled back to within three ponts, 65-62, after Rich Gaston hit two free throws with 20 seconds left. However, Wallas converted the back end of a two-shot foul five seconds later to make it a two-possession game, and Shenango was unable to get any closer.

Though Wallas’ free throw was the clincher, Tinstman pointed to the Spartans’ outside shooting as the key to the win.

“If you look at the box scores, when we score well from the perimeter, we’re in the ballgames,” Tinstman said. “The games we’re getting beat, we’re not shooting well, because we don’t have that inside threat like a Shenango or Mohawk has, where they get 20, 30 points a game.

“We have to live by the outside, and we made the shots tonight. If we don’t hit those shots it’s a different ballgame.”

Shenango got another monster game from the 6-foot-5 Gaston, who broke the 1,000-point barrier Tuesday and last night scored almost at will from underneath for a 38-point outing. No other Wildcat, though, scored more than eight points.

Moreover, as prolific as Gaston was from the paint, neither he nor his teammates could find success at the foul line. The ’Cats were just 4-of-16 from stripe, including 4-of-11 by Gaston.

The loss was particularly frustrating for Shenango, given that it was coming off an upset of section co-champion Mohawk on Tuesday. Shenango (5-7, 8-13) hasn’t been able to post consecutive victories since taking three straight in mid-December, but McQuiston hopes a nonleague game Monday against Union will be a chance to establish some momentum.

“Union’s a (Class A) playoff team,” he said. “They’re going to be good, so that’s going to be a good tune-up for us to get ready for the playoffs.”
Nightly Roundup
Feb 06, 2009 Nightly Roundups
Game Scoreboard
Laurel 16 10 20 20 0 66
Shenango 15 14 13 20 0 62
Box Scores
Shane Caldararo 5 0-2 10
Jake Dando 3 2-2 9
Tyler Forbes 7 5-7 21
Mike Natale 3 0-0 9
Eric Wallas 5 6-11 17
Chad Long 0 0-0 0
Ryan Melichar 0 0-0 0
Totals: 23 13-22 66

Bobby Gwin 2 0-0 6
Chris Grant 0 0-0 0
Mike Murcko 3 0-3 8
Rich Gaston 17 4-11 38
Dave McCowin 1 0-2 3
Brian Herb 0 0-0 0
Jordan Hill 1 0-0 2
Joe Colavecchia 2 0-0 5
Brett Cassella 0 0-0 0
Anthony Pisano 0 0-0 0
Totals: 26 4-16 62

LAUREL 16 10 20 20 — 66
SHENANGO 15 14 13 20 — 62

3-point goals — Laurel 7 (Natale 3, Forbes 2, Dando 1, Wallas 1), Shenango 6 (Gwin 2, Murcko 2, McCowin 1, Colavecchia 1).
JV score: No game.
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