Acie's long-range shooting propels McKeesport past Bethel Park in OT
If it was up to McKeesport basketball coach Corey Gadson, he would rather pound the ball inside over any other style of play.
But Gadson has been around long enough to know there are other ways to win games, and after Saturday's first-round WPIAL Class AAAA playoff contest, Gadson is a firm believer in Carlitto's way — and so is Bethel Park coach Ben O'Connor.
Carlitto Acie scored 25 of his career-high 28 points within a 15-minute span that included six 3-pointers, and his Reggie Miller-like performance in the third quarter — he scored eight points in 55 seconds — helped No. 11 McKeesport upset Bethel Park for the second time in five days, 58-54, in an overtime game that featured 26 ties or lead changes.
It was McKeesport's fourth overtime game this year.
“The story of the game was Carlitto Acie,” O'Connor said. “He punched us even before we could react. My hat goes off to him. I love the way Corey Gadson coaches, but Carlitto Acie is the MVP — emotionally, physically, his shooting and just his presence on the court.”
McKeesport (15-7) converted 7 of 12 free throws in overtime, including three by Acie, and Jamie Grayson and held Bethel Park scoreless until the final 24 seconds of overtime to advance to Saturday's quarterfinals against No. 3 Hampton (19-4), a 53-48 winner over Mt. Lebanon.
Even though McKeesport didn't convert a field goal over the final 9:38, the Tigers made 9 of 17 free throws during that span that supplemented their nine 3-pointers in the game.
The Tigers, who beat Bethel Park, 58-51, a week ago, raised their two-game, 3-pointer total against the Black Hawks to 16. Acie, whose previous high this year was 17 points during a December win over Plum, was 6 of 8 from behind the arc.
“I was in the zone … that's exactly what it was,” Acie said. “I was real focused coming into this game and just felt it.”
Gadson saw this before from Acie, so he knew what to do.
“When he gets like that, you just ride it out,” Gadson said.
Jordon Payne added nine points for McKeesport. Grayson and Matt Sutton chipped in seven apiece.
Bethel Park was led by Cody Gilchrist's 22. Rohan Young added 15, and Wyatt Hagerty had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
McKeesport trailed by seven early in the second half when an 11-0 spurt in a 2:12 span gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn't relinquish mostly, because of their 3-point shooting. The Tigers' final six field goals were 3-pointers.
Still, Bethel Park battled back in the fourth and had chances to win the game in regulation.
Down 51-50, Josh Kracfynzski's 3-pointer with a minute left was off the mark and Gilchrist's 15-footer with less than 20 seconds was short. But an offensive rebound by Hagerty on Gilchrist's miss and subsequent foul gave the Black Hawks a chance to go ahead at the foul line.
However, the 6-foot-11 center missed one of two that sent the game into overtime only after a desperation shot at the buzzer by McKeesport missed.
“I looked in their eyes, and they had the look like we've been here,” Gadson said. “Those overtime games definitely helped us, even though we lost a couple. We knew how we lost, and we showed them on tape what mistakes we made and how we were killing ourselves in OT.”
Acie was fouled driving to the basket and converted both foul shots with 2:45 left. Acie converted another free throw a minute later, and Grayson made two more with 40 seconds left to seal the victory for the Tigers.
“We played tough down the stretch to tie it up but couldn't carry it over into overtime,” O'Connor said. “In the end, Carlitto Acie was the difference.”