Pine-Richland falls to Seneca Valley
The goal at this point of the season for Section 3-AAAA boys basketball teams is to stay within striking distance of a playoff position. When Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland squared off, both teams needed a win for the same reason in regard to the standings, but confidence heading into the second half of the season may have been as critical as the win.
Seneca Valley edged out the Rams in a 55-48 slugfest that included a couple of thrilling dunks, clutch perimeter shooting and big free throws in the waning moments.
The game started off like a slam-dunk contest as Tim Williams laid one down for the Rams, and Easton Bazzoli came back with one for the Raiders.
Seneca Valley found a bit of a groove offensively in the first and took a two-point lead heading into the second.
Pine-Richland coach Brian Gaetano shuffled his lineup in the second quarter, and the move paid off as sophomore guard Ben DiNucci knocked down two 3-pointers to help the Rams build a four-point advantage at the half.
“Ben comes in and can shoot for us,” Gaetano said.
The teams played fairly evenly in the first half, and that trend continued into the second, but the difference was the play of Bazzoli, who scored a game-high 22 points.
“The last two days we really picked it up in practice,” Bazzoli said. “We worked hard and were prepared mentally.”
If extra effort was the key, it showed in the second half.
Seneca Valley chipped into the Rams' lead and held a 38-37 advantage heading into the final frame.
Pat Sullivan knocked down a 3-pointer for the Rams, then Seneca Valley came back with a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Matt Darby.
Shea Sullivan fired back with a long ball of his own, but — with the Raiders still up by two — R.J. McCauley stole the ball and pushed the lead to four for the Raiders. The Rams' deficit increased to six, but Sullivan came through again with a 3.
Seneca Valley got a solid performance from Darby at the charity stripe late (six of six for the game) to pull out the win.
“I thought we defended better in the first half, but as the game went on we fouled more than I would have liked,” Gaetano said. “Our defense pressed, and the intensity was good all game. We rebounded better and created some opportunities off the pressure. I don't know if we took advantage of those opportunities and just did not finish enough plays.”
Seneca Valley coach Vic Gianotta cited a total team effort and felt like his squad had control late but noted that the Rams responded.
“You can't leave them open on those 3s,” Gianotta said. “We ran the triangle with about four minutes left, and Easton was able to get in the back door and push the lead to four late.”
The nip-and-tuck nature of the game is something both teams expected. The win kept the Raiders in the section race and left the Rams searching for their first section win.
“Section wins are quite big, and aside from New Castle and Hampton, I felt we played well enough to hang with the others,” Gateano said. “You have to play the full 32 minutes of basketball and be consistent. This is a senior-laden team, and I expect we will come back to practice focused.”