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Quaker Valley's season ends after PIAA semifinal loss to Strong Vincent

| Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 11:30 p.m.

With 30 seconds until halftime, Quaker Valley had a little momentum, a five-point lead and the ball.

Until Strong Vincent stole all three.

In those final first-half seconds, Colonels senior David Morris converted a steal into a layup and then Morris added a long, off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie. With those two shots, Strong Vincent's star went from dormant to dominant and defeated Quaker Valley, 73-64, in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal Tuesday at Slippery Rock University.

The District 10 champion exited halftime with an 11-2 run and won the third quarter 24-11.

“The turning point was the end of the first half,” QV coach Mike Mastroianni said. “We had the ball and the lead. … If we come in with some type of lead and they make the run, it doesn't separate as much.”

Tied 26-26 at half, Strong Vincent's lead surged to 50-37 after three and peaked at 18 points in the fourth.

Morris, a 6-foot-1 guard and Tennessee State recruit, scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. He'd had just three points before the key steal and layup. Morris had a similar second-half surge to defeat WPIAL champion New Castle three days earlier.

“We told them we needed to start attacking the basket,” SV coach Shannon Pulliam said. “We were settling for 3s. … We told Dave to get the ball and start attacking and good things happened.”

“When you get to these games, you need a ‘guy',” Mastroianni said, “and they do. They have a guy who'll win the game.”

Morris broke the halftime tie with a quick layup, and steadily pushed the lead to 13 with two free throws, a layup and two 3-pointers.

Strong Vincent shot well overall and made 8 of 12 shots in the third quarter, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.

“The way they shot in the third quarter, we probably should have been down 30 or more,” Mastroianni said. “They made every shot in one stretch.”

“They were all contested shots,” said QV senior Amos Luptak, who called Strong Vincent the best shooting team he'd faced all season. “We weren't losing our man. They hit shots.”

Jerome Henderson, a 6-6 sophomore, added 17 points for Strong Vincent (27-3). The victory carries the Erie public school to the state finals for the first time since 1985. Awaiting is a 2 p.m. Saturday matchup with Philadelphia's Imhotep Charter (30-2).

Quaker Valley (25-4), the WPIAL runner-up, was trying to reach the state finals for the first time since 1999. Luptak and senior Wolf Moser had 16 points each, junior Ricky Guss scored 14 and junior Coletrane Washington added 11.

With less than 4 minutes left, Quaker Valley trailed 67-49. Pained by the idea of a blowout loss, the Quakers rallied behind eight fourth-quarter points from Luptak, who made two 3s.

A Luptak 3-pointer cut the lead to 12 with 2:10 left, and sophomore Danny Conlan made it 72-62 with a putback and foul shot at 1:32. The lead was down to nine when Goss made two free throws with 44 seconds left, but QV got no closer.

“I was thinking I still had a chance,” Luptak said. “We were going to do as much as we could to claw back. … We haven't quit all season. We weren't going to quit then. We put our head down and kept churning.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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