Saltsburg stuns Blairsville
The Blairsville boys' basketball team isn't getting dominated, but for the last five games it hasn't been winning either. Worse yet, the Bobcats seem to be finding a new way to fall short each time.
The Bobcats held a 45-44 lead over Saltsburg Tuesday night with six seconds on the clock, two fouls to give before putting the host Trojans at the line and the possession arrow in Blairsville's favor. The only thing the Bobcats didn't have going for them was the ball. Saltsburg inbounded that, it ended up in Ian Satler's wrong hand, but his shot was right on target to give the Trojans a 46-45 Heritage Conference victory.
“Blairsville is a huge rival of ours and we haven't really beat them in a while,” said Satler. “We take every game we play against them seriously. It means a lot and it's a good feeling.”
The Trojans should feel good after improving to 6-9 overall, 5-5 in the conference.
The Bobcats, on the other hand, are looking for answers as their fifth straight loss – all in the conference – dropped them to 6-10 overall, 4-6 in the conference.
By Blairsville-Saltsburg School District policy, a team must post at least a .500 record to be eligible for the District 6 playoffs.
During their five-game skid, the Bobcats have lost significant leads to Homer-Center and Penns Manor and were unable to complete a comeback against Marion Center. Blairsville let a 12-point second-quarter lead over the Trojans slip away, but still had the advantage for most of the last five minutes.
Saltsburg took the lead for just the second time in the game when Mitchell Yard rebounded his own miss and put it back for a 41-39 advantage with about five minutes remaining.
“Mitchell was all over the place,” Saltsburg coach Don Stitt Jr. said of Yard, who led all players with 11 rebounds and scored eight points. “He's the glue of this team. He doesn't get the credit he deserves.”
Blairsville's Colton McMillan countered with a pull-up jumper to tie it at 41-41. Alex Horchar skipped a pass to a cutting Eric Helm to make it 43-41, and the Bobcats took a 45-42 lead on another jumper by McMillan.
Saltsburg's Steve Richards, who scored a game-high 18 points in the first three quarters and had hit four 3-pointers, missed a 3-point shot and Tyler Frassenei failed to put back the offensive rebound.
The Bobcats came out after a timeout with 2:30 remaining intent on slowing the pace. After burning more than a minute off the clock, Saltsburg's Cody Stewart fouled Ryan Horchar once, then again, to put him on the line with 1:22 remaining.
Yard chased down the rebound after Horchar missed the front end of the 1-and-1 opportunity, and scored off an offensive rebound at the other end to cut Blairsville's lead to 45-44. On the ensuing possession, the Bobcats lost the ball within 10 feet of their own basket with 40 seconds remaining and wouldn't get it back.
“We did have two fouls to give and we said ‘If you have a shooter, you can foul but make sure he's not in the act of shooting,'” Blairsville coach Todd McGee said. “If we could have tied up the ball, it would have been a great thing for us, and we almost did. It just didn't happen.”
The Trojans looked to get the ball in Steve Richards' hands. Richards led the Trojans with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, but was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Still, Blairsville put two players – Troy Williams and Alex Horchar – between Richards and the hoop as he dribbled toward the elbow. Richards fought off the double team and passed the ball across the paint to Satler in the opposite corner.
“(Richards) said in the huddle that he wanted the shot,” said Stitt. “But he made a big-time heads-up play. Kudos to him for finding the open player.”
Satler shook his defender and drove to the opposite block, but he needed some extra dexterity to roll the ball off the rim and through the hoop.
“I looked up at the clock and saw there were two seconds left, so I put everything I had into that right-handed shot,” said Satler. “I'm left-handed, so that shot wasn't easy for me.”
Satler's shot might have come off the wrong hand, but it was right enough for Saltsburg, as fans and players spilled on to the floor to celebrate the win over their intra-district rivals.
Blairsville beat Saltsburg, 61-51, at home on Dec. 14, fueled by nine 3-point field goals against Saltsburg's zone defense. Saltsburg's man-to-man defense in the second meeting helped the Trojans hold Blairsville to just two threes on the night.
Williams shared the Bobcats' scoring lead with McMillan at 14 points. Williams also led Blairsville with eight rebounds.
Marion Center 56,
The Stingers won their sixth straight game, coming from behind in the fourth quarter Tuesday to upset the host Wildcats.
Marion Center led 56-53 in the closing seconds and fouled Homer-Center's Joey Capitosti with 5 seconds remaining to prevent the Wildcats from tying the game with a 3-pointer.
Todd Fetsko led Marion Center with 22 points, matching Capitosti's total. Brodey Thompson had 17 points for the Stingers and Andrew Rupp added 10. Darren Carr scored 16 for Homer-Center.
The Stingers improved to 10-6, 8-2 while the Wildcats fell to 11-4, 7-2.
John B. Smathers is a freelance writer.