Kiski Area overcomes slow start, beats Penn-Trafford to earn section title
A miserable first quarter is easy to forget, especially when the game ends with flashbulbs and ear-to-ear grins.
Kiski Area scored one point and committed six turnovers in the first quarter, but that became ancient history when it put up 22 in the second on the way to a 48-44 victory over Penn-Trafford on Friday night.
It was the team's 10th straight victory, and the Cavaliers (15-4, 9-2 Section 1-AAAA) clinched at least a share of their first section title since 2002.
The team posed for pictures at midcourt after the tight victory.
“We weren't moving in the first quarter; we were frozen,” Kiski Area coach Harry Rideout said. “That was the first time in maybe 10 games where I called a timeout in the first half. Once we stopped and relaxed and got back into our game, we were fine.”
Down, 14-1, after one, Kiski Area settled into its half-court set and steadily rallied. The Cavaliers looked noticeably more comfortable as their old, patient selves.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Mike Simmons and Joey Brungo tied it, 21-21, with 55 seconds left in the first half. That capped a 15-5 surge and Brungo's two free throws gave Kiski Area a 23-21 lead at halftime.
Brungo scored nine of his game-high 15 points in the second quarter for the Cavaliers. Simmons and Nick Stone had 11 points apiece, and Adam Robison had 10 for Kiski Area.
“We came out anxious,” Robison said. “You could sense it in the locker room before the game. We had to get our wheels under us. We had that deer-in-headlights feeling early. We were thinking about the section too early I think.”
Still in the playoff chase, Penn-Trafford (12-7, 5-5) looked strong early and matched Kiski Area almost shot for shot as the game progressed.
“This game could have gone either way,” Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said. “Overall I was really pleased with our defensive effort. It was tremendous. Kiski Area forces you to be disciplined.”
There were four ties in the third, and the Warriors regained the lead, 36-33, by closing out the quarter with a 7-1 run.
In the back-and-forth final quarter, the Cavaliers seized control when, after several crisp passes, Stone made a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Cavaliers a 43-40 lead with 2:24 to go.
Corey Stanford's basket with 34.9 seconds got the Warriors within 45-44.
After Kiski Area was whistled for a 10-second violation with 23.8 left, Penn-Trafford threw the ball out of bounds and was later called for a travel. Kiski Area chewed some clock until Brungo was fouled and made two more free throws at the 2.1-second mark.
Mitch Murdock added another free throw to make it 48-44. Stanford's near-fullcourt heave hit the backboard and rim as the buzzer sounded.
“It's been our goal all season to win the section,” Rideout said. “I am so proud of our kids. They were a game away from winning it last year.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.