Missed chances hurt Union in OT loss
Elk County Catholic (67) Vs. Union (62)
Mar 09, 2009
By JOE SAGER
CLARION — Friday night, the Union High boys basketball team needed some extra effort to force an extra period.
However, the Scotties struggled to maintain that pace in overtime as they dropped a 67-62 decision to Elk County Catholic in a PIAA first-round game at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium.
The Crusaders’ (21-7) depth proved to be overwhelming for the Scotties (13-11). The District 9 champs substituted regularly, made 18 of 21 free-throw attempts and took advantage of some Union misses to seal the victory.
“Union is an excellent team. We knew how quick they are and how well they shoot the ball,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub, who has 629 wins in 29 years as a head coach. “Fortunately, we made our free throws down the stretch and got some finishes.”
Elk County Catholic moves on to face Homer-Center, a 51-46 overtime winner over VisionQuest, on Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
“It’s nice to move on,” Straub said. “That’s what this is all about now — it’s about practicing another day.”
The Scotties, who had not seen live game action in two weeks prior to last night’s battle, struggled to keep pace early on in the contest. They fell behind, 23-12, after the first quarter and stared at a 13-point deficit in the opening moments of the second frame.
However, Union recovered and went on a 13-5 run to close the gap to 30-25 at the break.
“Our game legs weren’t there,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “We haven’t played for two weeks. I knew it was going to be a problem. You just hope that it’s not a problem the whole game. We woke up a little bit and got our legs back. It’s just unfortunate we got in that hole.”
The Scotties spent the entire third period clawing their way back into the contest. They made it a 40-38 game through three quarters. Union grabbed a 42-40 edge on Nick DeCesare’s layup 1:56 into the final frame.
Elk County Catholic regained the lead and pushed its margin back up to five, 52-47 with 1:58 to play. Yet, the Scotties answered again with a 7-0 run on a Jason Burkes steal and layup, a DeCesare hoop and an Anthony Thomas runner. That gave Union a 54-52 edge with 42 seconds remaining.
Nate Higgins tallied an inside hoop to knot the game at 54 with 22 seconds to go. The Scotties had a chance to grab the lead with 5.6 seconds left in regulation when Thomas was fouled. However, he missed the first of a one-and-one and ECC snagged the rebound as time expired.
“I am sure (the missed free throw) affected them for a little bit. But, when they got in the huddle, I told them to forget it about it because they fought their way this hard to a tie and now they had to play four more minutes and to get after it,” Smialowski said. “Unfortunately, we came up on the short end.”
The Scotties failed to find the bottom of the basket on their first three OT possessions and the Crusaders built a small cushion and held on for the victory.
“Union came in with a great game plan. They didn’t blink when we got off to a nice lead. They were well prepared,” Straub said. “Their pressure bothered us a little bit. Fortunately, we hung in there.”
Burkes had a chance to knot the game at 65-all with 10 seconds remaining in overtime, but his 3-point clanged off the rim and ECC rebounded the ball and drew a foul. Robby Wortman, who tallied a game-high 23 points, swished both free throws with 9.8 seconds to go to set the final score.
“I can’t fault our effort. The kids played hard; their effort was incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of how we went out and played. In big times when we needed those buckets, they just didn’t go in,” Smialowski said. “We were right there, but we lost some opportunities. Our shot selection was a little tough there in overtime, but we did miss some easy ones, some easy layups. Unfortunately, we just came out on the short end.”
Thomas led Union with 20 points. Burkes finished with 14 points. Devonta Thomas had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Scotties.
“I think we did a pretty good job containing Burkes,” Straub said. “Anthony Thomas, we didn’t have a whole lot of answers for him. He just got in the lane and got a lot of shots.”
Higgins finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for ECC. Tony Chiodo added 10 points off the bench.