Spartans shoot way past Shenango
Laurel (57) Vs. Shenango (44)
Feb 13, 2010
By JOE SAGER
The Laurel High boys basketball team has seen many of its players step up in key situations this year.
Last night, Eric Wallas took his turn for the Spartans.
The senior guard tallied a game-high 17 points in a 57-44 WPIAL Section 2-AA win over Shenango. However, his three-straight 3-pointers are what really lifted Laurel.
Trailing by a point, 27-26, late in the third quarter, Wallas swished his first trey with 2:38 left in the frame. Shenango’s Jeff Williams countered with a 3-pointer of his own 18 seconds later, but Wallas dialed in from long distance two more times — sandwiched around an Andrew Welsh hoop — to give the Spartans a 35-32 with 1:20 remaining in the period.
“They were in a zone and our guys got open. Chad Long made a nice pass to me when I was open for one of my 3-pointers,” Wallas said. “They were switching on the picks sometimes and I just bumped off the pick and got open and free enough to shoot it.
“Those shots gave us a jump and other people started knocking down shots. Jake Dando started knocking down shots and we started getting our transition going and opened up the game.”
Laurel (7-5 section, 12-7 overall) rallied around that spree. The hosts reeled off a 16-0 run from waning seconds of the third quarter and deep into the fourth to blow open the contest. In that streak, Dando tallied his 1,000th point. He now has 1,003 for his career.
“We picked up the intensity on defense a lot,” Wallas said. “Mike Natale picked up his defensive intensity and everybody did a good job. It was a good team effort. We knew we had to do that. Last game, we kind of blew them out of the water. This game was close and they were beating us at one point, so we knew we had to pick it up.”
The Spartans stormed past the Wildcats (1-11, 4-18), 77-48, on Jan. 19, but Shenango proved to be a tougher out this time.
“I want to give Shenango some credit. They came in here and played smart basketball. They pressured and really put a lot of pressure on Jake defensively. They played very well,” Laurel coach Mike Tinstman said. “Sometimes, we were just a little impatient. Sometimes, when you play like we did at Shenango when things just came to us, you expect it to happen real fast.
“This was a good lesson for us. The game is won one possession at a time; you can’t just go out there and force things. I think that’s what happened to us at the beginning of the game. We forced some passes. In the second half, I think we played with more intensity and made better passes and just played better basketball.”
Wallas helped energize Laurel’s offense, too. The Spartans have struggled to find consistency since starter Tyler Forbes was relegated to the bench after undergoing an appendectomy at the end of January and probably won’t return to the lineup this season.
“There are a number of players who have stepped up for us and that was a big game for Eric. He stepped up and hit some big 3-pointers,” Tinstman said. “Since Tyler has been out, our chemistry isn’t quite there — it’s almost like the beginning of the season again. We’re still feeling our way. We haven’t been playing with the same aggressiveness, but I was happy to see that come back in the second half. That was how we were playing earlier in the season.”
Dando finished with 12 points, while Shane Caldararo added 10 for Laurel, which finished tied with Summit Academy for third place in the section. The Spartans, who had two upcoming nonsection games postponed, may have to sit idle until the WPIAL playoffs begin on Friday.
“We’re hoping to get another game. We’ve only played 19 games. I am a little disappointed with how we’ve finished; I was hoping to get a better seed, but that’s just how it goes,” Tinstman said. “If we can find a team that would have interest in playing, we’d like to do that because it’ll be a long week otherwise.”
Williams, a sophomore, led Shenango with 15 points. Brett Chieze added 14 points, while Joe Colavecchia had nine for the Wildcats, who finished last in the section.
“Shenango has played hard all year and they have some outstanding young players. They have some outstanding shooters and they play to the end,” Tinstman said. “The future is very bright for Shenango. They have had a very outstanding program over the years and there’s no doubt they will be back.”