Indiana takes it slow, polishes off Kittanning
Indiana boys basketball coach Greg Lezanic only needed to glance at Kittanning's results to realize the Wildcats preferred an up-tempo style of basketball.
Rather than see if his own long and lean lineup could speed its way past Kittanning, Lezanic challenged the Little Indians to go slow and steady Tuesday night.
The tactic paid off for host Indiana (11-3, 5-1), which hung on to win, 45-44, and secured second place in Section 1-AAA.
Kittanning (11-2, 4-2), in just its second game decided by fewer than 10 points, waved goodbye to its 69.6-points-per-game scoring average and fell to third in the section.
“I was hoping for a game in the 50s,” Indiana coach Greg Lezanic said. “I really didn't want to have a game in the 70s.”
Sophomore Riley Stapleton, who tied Blake Shields with a team-high 13 points, had the deciding seven-second stretch of the night. The 6-foot-4 combo guard sank the second of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to put Indiana ahead by one and then blocked 6-foot-6 forward Vince Mead under the basket just before time expired to secure the victory.
“You get into these games, and sometimes it's uncharted territory for us,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “It was there for us. It was a 50-50 game. We obviously didn't play our best. We played pretty good defense, but again, we didn't do much on offense.”
Stapleton's last-second heroics offset the late-game efforts of Sterling Henry, who scored a game-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the contest's final 11 minutes.
Henry made a jumper to cut Kittanning's deficit to 41-38 with 1:13 left. He sank a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left to cut the deficit to 2. Then he drained another shot from behind the arc with 10 seconds left to tie the score at 44.
Henry, who had four 3-pointers, provided Kittanning its most viable offensive option in the first half. No other Wildcats found rhythm from the outside — the team went 2 of 11 in the first half — nor did they find driving lanes, so Indiana remained in its 2-3 zone. They struggled to draw shooting fouls — Mead attempted Kittanning's first free throw 50 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“There were a lot of reasons why we didn't score points,” Bill Henry said. “We were kind of settling for that jumper, that open look outside. We hit a couple in the beginning, and then we kind of settled for them.”
Indiana hardly had better luck against Kittanning's 1-3-1 half-court zone. Aside from a fast-break alley-oop that Kevin Jack completed to Stapleton, the Little Indians did not have a field goal until 10 seconds remained in the first quarter.
Kittanning and Indiana were tied at 16 at halftime, but a 13-2 run to open the third quarter gave the Little Indians a sizeable lead.
Indiana also improved in rebounding after halftime. Kittanning managed seven offensive rebounds in the first half, but it had just one in the second.
“We thought if we got some rebounds in the second half, and we knew the shots would go in, and we knew if we played the same defense, we thought we'd be OK,” Lezanic said.