Kittanning beats Yough for 1st playoff win since 1984
Yough boys basketball coach Wayne Greiser worried Kittanning's lineup, with its impressive, across-the-board height, might wear down his Cougars as their WPIAL Class AAA preliminary-round game progressed Friday night.
A dominant start by Kittanning made late-game attrition a relatively minor issue.
The Wildcats (19-4) showed few signs of weakness during their 77-56 win over Yough (8-15) at Gateway. A 9-0 run in the game's first two-plus minutes raised confidence to an almost unprecedented level for Kittanning, which used a lineup without a player shorter than 6-foot-1 to secure its first playoff victory since 1984. Yough, with just four players on its roster taller than 6-feet, trailed by eight after the first quarter and by 19 at halftime.
“Last year, we started slow — we couldn't buy a bucket against Trinity,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “We reminded the kids of that, and they really bought into (starting strong).”
Eric Hulings scored with an easy backside look to open the game. Alek Schaffer added a fast-break bucket. Sterling Henry drained a 3-pointer. And Vince Mead sank a layup. Nine points in about one minute and 30 seconds and Greiser burned a timeout.
“Obviously, you don't draw up going down 9-0,” Greiser said. “The three things we talked about all week were: sprint back on defense, value the ball and rebounding. We didn't do any of them well early.”
Yough closed the game to 10-7 with two free throws by Josh Sterner, who finished with a team-high 16 points that included four 3-pointers. But Kittanning's collection of scorers allowed the Wildcats to operate at any tempo, and they chose fast for the better part of the first half.
“Coach said to get the ball and run,” said junior Alek Schaffer, who had 10 points. “It didn't matter who got it. Even (6-6 senior forward) Vince (Mead) could go.”
Said Sterling Henry: “That was a great game for everyone. …We came out strong. We wanted the ball more than they did.”
Kittanning held a 13-9 edge in rebounding at the half. It then imposed its will in the third quarter, gaining an 11-3 margin on the glass.
“I thought we did a good job handling (Kittanning's height),” Greiser said. “But they wore us down. And they don't get any smaller when they go to the bench. We do.”
Sterling Henry showcased his height during a 23-point performance. Twice during the game, he cruised down court for a fast-break dunk.
The slams stirred Kittanning's sizeable student section, the “Jubilation Nation,” into a frenzy. But the kids in the stands failed to hush even during duller moments.
“With the fan section, it seemed like a home game,” said sophomore Noah Kunst, who sank four 3-pointers during an 18-point night.
Kittanning will play No. 5 Central Valley (16-6) in a first-round game Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
“I told them every step you take, it gets harder,” Bill Henry said. “You have to refine everything.”