Jeannette withstands stubborn Serra Catholic
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, Serra Catholic's Vince Gibbons is past moral victories.
But the Serra Catholic boys basketball coach will gladly take this win, especially when you consider his Eagles were at the foul line with 1:19 left trying to tie Jeannette, the state's third-ranked Class AA team.
But two missed free throws by Anthony Rosso, which led to a three-point play by Duke Brown 7 seconds later, propelled visiting Jeannette to a hard-fought 63-56 Section 3-AA road victory and left Serra with another “good” loss.
“I hate saying we played well, but lost,” Gibbons said. “I am tired of moral victories, but we just hung in there with one of the best teams in the state with a bunch of juniors and sophomores playing in Double-A for the first time. So yes, I'll take this moral victory because we played well, and we are definitely getting better.”
The victory kept Jeannette (15-2, 8-1) within striking distance of first-place Greensburg Central Catholic for the section title. Serra (12-4, 5-3) stayed a game ahead of fourth-place Shady Side Academy (7-12, 5-5).
Jeannette received 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting from Brown. Jordan Edmunds added 12 points and Julian Batts 10.
Serra had 16 points and 16 rebounds from 6-foot-9 sophomore George Prota, along with 17 points from Joe Satira and 12 from Tyler Grebur.
“They are a really good team,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “It has always been tough to play here, and I told the kids that. We didn't shoot it very well for the foul line, but we found a way to win. This was a playoff-like atmosphere, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy.”
But after a 15-point home win over Serra four weeks ago, Batts couldn't have imagined it would have been this difficult.
Neither team had more than a three-point lead throughout the first half. Serra led, 33-32, at halftime.
Jeannette opened up a 40-38 lead midway through the third quarter before getting some breathing room. Edmunds converted a three-point play and Batts made a 3-pointer to spur a 7-0 Jayhawks run and corresponding 47-38 lead.
“We had trouble scoring in the quarter,” said Gibbons, whose team hit only 2-of-15 shots from the floor in getting outscored, 15-6, in the third quarter. “We missed a bunch of easy shots, and you can't do that against a team like Jeannette.”
However, poor Jeannette free-throw shooting kept the Eagles in the game. Jeannette converted only 10-of-22 foul shots in the second half and 13 of 26 in the game.
“When you shoot 50 percent from the foul line, you can't extend the lead,” Batts said. “But we got better rebounding in the second half, and that helped us a lot.”
Jeannette kept its lead around seven points for the majority of the fourth quarter before Serra made one final run.
A three-point play by Grebur with 2:12 left made it 56-52, followed by a steal and basket by Satira 40 seconds later that moved Eagles within 56-54.
Serra wasn't done.
Thirty seconds later, Rosso stepped in front of a Seth Miller pass and was fouled going in for the tying points, sending him to the line with 1:19 with an opportunity to tie the game.
“It was nice to see us put the game away after he missed those foul shots,” Batts said. “This Serra team is good. I know you don't want to run into them in the playoffs, that's for sure.”