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Uniontown runs winning streak to 7

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 11:24 p.m.
Uniontown's Birdie Winfrey (1) puts up a shot at the conclusion of the first half of Uniontown's match up against Mt. Pleasant held at Uniontown Area High School on Friday, January 11, 2013.Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

The Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team did a lot of good things during Friday's Section 3-AAA road game against high-powered Uniontown.

The Vikings were able to beat Uniontown's press, and they attacked the home team defensively. But despite Mt. Pleasant's strong play, the Red Raiders were still too much, exploding in the second quarter on their way to a 73-59 victory.

“That was a hard-fought win,” Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky said. “I've watched three Mt. Pleasant games, and that is a very good basketball team.”

Uniontown (11-1, 5-0) came into the night with a one-game lead on Mt. Pleasant (7-5, 3-2) for the top spot in the section, so this game was critical.

In the early part of the game, Uniontown tried to control the tempo by trapping Mt. Pleasant in an attempt to create turnovers. However, Mt. Pleasant did a fine job of beating Uniontown's defensive scheme and it allowed the Vikings some chances at open shots. Ryan Gumbita and Mitch Matlas each took advantage. Matlas hit two 3-pointers, and Gumbita also added a 3-pointer to help Mt. Pleasant gain a 20-15 lead after one quarter. Gumbita finished with a team-high 15 points, and Matlas added 14.

Uniontown returned to its game by forcing turnovers and playing an up-tempo rhythm, outscoring Mt. Pleasant, 25-11, in the second quarter. Xavier Ellis (14 points), Christian Kezmarsky (12) and Birdie Winfrey (10) each hit key baskets to help Uniontown gain a 40-31 halftime lead on the way to its seventh win in a row.

“I thought the turning point was the spurt Uniontown had in the second quarter,” Mt. Pleasant coach Tony Splendore said. “That was the difference in the game. Besides that, I thought we played well and handled their press pretty well.”

Splendore also noted two key players (Marcus Malara and Luke Liprando) have been battling the flu. However, each performed well off the bench, with Liprando netting 13 points.

The third quarter was played on relatively even terms as Uniontown's Jordan Pratt and Mt. Pleasant's Gumbita each made some nice scoring plays inside. Pratt kept Uniontown in the game early with three first-quarter baskets. He added three more field goals in the third. And when it was time to seal the win in the fourth, he hit all eight of his free-throw attempts. For the game, Pratt was 12 for 12 from the line and finished with a game-high 25 points.

For the Vikings, the loss can be a stepping stone considering they played well against a strong opponent.

“We're making progress,” Splendore said. “It came down to a few crucial plays.”

Uniontown will visit second-place Laurel Highlands on Tuesday. Mt. Pleasant will try to bounce back with a home game Tuesday against Southmoreland.

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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