Homer-Center boys hold off Derry, 61-55, in non-conference basketball matchup
Homer-Center's 14-point fourth-quarter lead all but evaporated in just over five minutes of Wednesday night's non-conference boys' basketball matchup against Derry Area, but mediocre free-throw shooting in the final minute was enough to help the Wildcats salvage a 61-55 win.
The Wildcats shot just 19-for-37 from the line – and a dismal 7-for-18 in the final period – but three of those makes came after Derry had cut the margin to 58-55 and the Wildcats held the Trojans scoreless over the final 0:50 to escape with Bob Rado's 100th win in just over five seasons as Homer-Center's head coach.
Homer-Center became the third area basketball program coach Bob Rado has piloted to a triple-digit win total during his tenure.
Rado said he led Marion Center to a 131-67 mark during his time with the Stingers beginning in the 1980s and had eclipsed 100 wins as Indiana's coach prior to leaving that program in 2006.
“It's nothing I even looked at until somebody mentioned it to me,” Rado said of reaching the 100-win plateau with a third school. “I knew at Indiana and Marion Center it was over 100 there because I coached more of those teams than I did down here. I didn't know it would come this quick down here though.”
“When I came down here at the beginning I was just taking the job for one year,” he added. “Right now it's turned into six. They needed a coach down here, but I've enjoyed myself, I really have enjoyed coming down here and coaching. I'm familiar with the community, I grew up here, I've got a lot of family down here. I've just been enjoying myself and so I've been sticking around every year.”
The Wildcats improved to 10-3 overall, their Heritage Conference mark of 7-1 unaffected by the exhibition contest's outcome.
The Trojans, less than 24 hours removed from a 47-43 win over Greensburg Salem, struggled to find consistency in the first half despite staying within a few points of Homer-Center and heading into halftime with a narrow 26-23 deficit.
“I think us playing Salem in an emotional game last night really took its toll today,” Derry coach Damon Rause said after his team fell to 6-6 overall and remained steady at 3-3 in WPIAL Class AAA Section 3 play. “We just were flat today. Even at halftime, it was a three-point game and it felt like we were down by 20, the kids weren't mentally into it.”
The Trojans opened the third quarter with five quick points, taking a 28-26 lead just 0:32 into the second half on junior guard Luke Ridilla's third 3-pointer of the night.
Rado quickly called a timeout to refocus his team.
“It just upset me to work so hard and just to come out lax and have what we worked for go for naught,” Rado said. “They just needed to be reminded, ‘Guys, we're here to work for the whole 32 minutes, you cannot relax during a basketball game and then let a team catch up and try to play with them.' They just needed to settle themselves down and get in the right frame of mind.”
The message came through loud and clear. The Wildcats went on a 20-7 run over the remainder of the third quarter, taking the lead for good at 34-32 with 4:27 left in the period and extending their edge to 51-37 with 5:58 left in the game.
Derry closed the gap, outscoring the Wildcats 20-15 in the fourth quarter, but Homer-Center's sub-par foul shooting was just enough to protect the lead.
“We missed 18 foul shots,” Rado said. “Last time we played (Dec. 8 at the Homer-Center Tip-Off Tournament), we were 30-for-38 against this team. I think we were 19-for-37 tonight. That's 18 points we lost just from the foul line itself.”
Joey Capitosti led Homer-Center with 28 points, 16 after the break, and notched a game-high five steals.
“Joey's made leaps and bounds in gains here,” Rado said of the junior. “He's a natural – I shouldn't really say that, because he's worked hard on his game. He's one of the smoothest players I've ever seen. He glides and he's able to maneuver his body in certain ways that really make it hard for a defender to watch. I have all the confidence in the world in Joey and he keeps getting better and better.”
Darren Carr chipped in 14 points and Matt Jones had 10 for the Wildcats.
Ridilla and Nick Clayton each finished with 10 points to pace Derry, which had eight players contribute three points or more.
Six of Clayton's points came during the Trojans' fourth-quarter rally.
“When he was getting the ball in the first half he was looking to be a passer,” Rause said of Clayton. “He kept getting the ball in the post and he was getting rid of it, even when he had smaller guys on him. I told him he's got to be more comfortable with his role. When he's on and he has that position, he's got so many moves and he's tough to defend. But he's got to have that mentality to be more aggressive, because he's such a great player for us. We do need to get the ball to him more, but at the same time he's got to take it on himself to be that scorer and to be comfortable with the role to actually be the go-to guy. I think he can do it.”
Both teams are back in action this evening. Homer-Center heads to Ligonier Valley (8-4, 6-2) for an important Heritage Conference showdown while Derry resumes its league schedule, hosting Uniontown (11-2, 5-1).
Marion Center 54,
Junior forward Todd Fetsko powered the visiting Stingers (8-6, 6-2) to a win at Blairsville Wednesday night. Fetsko had a game-high 33 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. Senior Brodey Thompson added 12 points for Marion Center.
Sophomore Troy Williams paced the Bobcats (6-8, 4-4) with 19 points while junior Colton McMillan added 12.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.