Reynolds ends Wilmington’s season
Reynolds (59) Vs. Wilmington (57)
Mar 02, 2009
By JOE SAGER
FARRELL — A brief moment of jubilation turned into an evening of disappointment for the Wilmington High boys basketball team.
Shane Wagner’s desperation half-court shot in front of the scorer’s table appeared to be destined for the bottom of the basket. Instead, the ball bounced out and fell harmlessly to the court as the buzzer sounded Saturday to preserve Reynolds’ 59-57 win over the Greyhounds in the District 10 Class AA consolation game at Farrell’s E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium.
The thrilling finish was nothing new for the squads as their previous two battles this season were decided at the buzzer. The Raiders pulled out a 52-50 win on Jan. 17 and earned a 55-53 triumph on Feb. 3.
That’s why Reynolds coach Scott Weaver was so nervous even after Chris Laverty put the Raiders ahead, 59-57, with 3.2 seconds to go — there was still time left on the clock.
Wagner took the inbounds pass and dribbled up the floor before launching the desperation shot. He remained face down on the basketball court as jubilant Reynolds players celebrated.
“Wagner has pulled off shots like that in the past to win games and we knew he was going to end up with the ball. We didn’t want him to touch it, but he still ended up with it and almost put it in,” Weaver said. “I have to hand it to both teams. We played three great games this year. Both teams played their hearts out. We’re just fortunate to come out of it with wins.”
The victory puts the Raiders (23-2) into the PIAA playoffs for the first time in program history. They face Jeannette at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at North Allegheny.
“This is our first opportunity to play in the state playoffs and we’re looking forward to it,” Weaver. “I have to give credit to my kids. They never gave up and that was a heck of a basketball game.”
The defeat ended Wilmington’s season at 15-10.
“It’s tough to give up all three like that,” Wilmington coach Will Harris said. “You second guess yourself as a coach and ask yourself if you could have done something differently.”
Foul shooting was one area that hurt the ’Hounds. They converted only 10 of 25 chances from the charity stripe on the afternoon, including 4 of 10 tries in the critical fourth quarter in which Reynolds overcame a nine-point deficit to grab the victory.
“That’s the thing,” Harris said. “You wonder, ‘What if we had just made two more free throws?’ ”
Other than foul-line struggles, Wilmington played a solid game. Paced by Jake DeMedal’s 18 points, the ’Hounds led for almost the entire contest. They carried a 48-39 lead into the fourth quarter, but cooled off when DeMedal left the game for two minutes to have an ankle taped.
Reynolds cut the deficit to 49-47 with 5:30 to play before Wagner swished a 3-pointer that sparked a 6-0 run.
However, Wilmington, which was limited to just two field goals in the fourth quarter, struggled to put the game away at the foul line and the Raiders crept back meticulously. They tied the game on a pair of Laverty baskets in the final 1:24 before he beat Wilmington’s defense again for the go-ahead bucket along the baseline with 3.2 seconds to play.
“They knew he was going to end up shooting the ball again. They put two guys on him,” Weaver said. “We came high to set a pick for him so he only had one guy to beat and he got inside and scored. We wanted the ball in his hands at the end. He wants it, too, and that’s what you have to go with.”
Laverty led all scorers with 20 points.
“He’s a very good player. If you’re the other coach, you want the ball in his hands at the end of the game,” Harris said. “I think toward the end of the game we just gave away too many bad possessions. The tough part about this game is that I felt we played our best game of the year. As a team, we played well. The effort was there. We were pretty focused for 32 minutes.
"It’s hard to go out when you’ve played your best game and I appreciate everything the seniors have done for me this year. It’s almost better to go out after you’ve just laid an egg, but that was not the case. They played their best game.”
Andrew Martin added 12 points for Reynolds, while Jake Galus and Russ Conley had 10.
Wagner finished with 14 points for the ’Hounds. Dallas Hartman had 11.