Strong finish powers West Mifflin
Lance Maha has been coaching long enough to know when to unload on his team at halftime.
Friday wasn't one of those times.
Still, that didn't mean the veteran West Mifflin boys basketball coach didn't have a few choice, albeit calm, words for his team during intermission of the Section 4-AAA game against East Allegheny.
“Sometimes when you are coaching, you have to kind of look at the collective self-esteem of your team,” Maha said. “I think we needed to talk about the things that we thought we needed to do to help us win the game.”
Surely, part of that talk was to get the ball into Ryan Maha's hands.
Maha hit three 3-pointers within four minutes of the second half to spark a 16-3 West Mifflin run that turned a close game into a rout, as the Titans opened up section play with a convincing 61-40 victory over visiting East Allegheny in front of a raucous bipartisan crowd.
“I thought we played on our heels early and in the locker room I made it clear that we needed to be a little more aggressive,” said Lance Maha, whose team held a 27-22 lead at the break.
The coach's son said he has heard explosive halftime speeches before from his father, but was kind of surprised with the lack of yelling this time around.
“Yeah, he never raises his voice,” Ryan Maha said with a smile. “Coach gave us a little talk at halftime because we obviously weren't playing up to our capabilities. We came out a little stronger in the second half.”
West Mifflin (3-1, 1-0) got solid contributions from a multitude of players. Derrick Fulmore had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Cye Murphy chipped in with eight points and 11 rebounds. Cleve Randolph blocked four shots, and Mike Peterson grabbed seven rebounds off the bench. Freshman Karlyn Garner contributed seven points in limited minutes.
“We have an old team, but we don't have very much experience,” Ryan Maha said. “We have to work together and I think we did that today.”
East Allegheny (3-2, 0-1) got 15 points from Jordan Williams. The Wildcats led by as many as four in the first half and had the lead up until the final few minutes of the first half.
“You have to take into account that there is a little more emotion for these kids,” Lance Maha said. “You have Duquesne kids playing for East Allegheny and Duquesne kids playing for us. Every time we have played them, they played up.”
East Allegheny coach Vern Benson also pointed to the first couple of minutes of the third quarter as the deciding factor.
“We just lost sight of what we wanted to do,” he said. “They got a couple quick baskets on us, and we fell apart. Once they start hitting those threes and (we) got behind, we had to change our game plan. We had to put a little more pressure on them. That fell more into what they wanted to do than what we wanted to do.”
The Wildcats managed only four field goals in the second half. They were outscored, 41-21, over the final 19 minutes of the game.
“Vern is doing one heck of a job over there,” Lance Maha said. “I think East Allegheny can be a playoff team. They are athletic and can shoot. I think we did a pretty good job defending them in the second half.”
East Allegheny shot 11 of 54 from the floor, including 5 of 22 from 3-point range. They were outrebounded, 53-26.
“We never gave up,” Benson said. “These kids fought to the end.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org