California boys, girls ousted
Despite a huge turnout by their supporters, both California basketball teams saw their seasons end Saturday afternoon in their WPIAL playoffs at Peters Township.
The Trojans (18-4) never led in their 56-50 defeat to Brentwood (13-9) in a Class AA preliminary round game, yet they had more than one chance to pull the game out in the closing moments.
But 11 missed free throws in the closing frame coupled with the physical domination by 6-5 senior Michael Kish was too much for the Trojans to overcome.
“That's a lot of points that we left on the court and it is hard to win when you do that,” California coach Phil Pergola said. “We had our chances. More than enough.”
Kish, an Akron football recruit, finished with 20 points and 25 rebounds, including 13 on the offensive end.
“He has that (size and) experience and it is hard to watch him,” Pergola said. “But we were right there at the end.”
California only made 13 of 28 free throws in the game.
Down nine (27-18) in the second quarter, the Trojans pulled to within 27-22 at halftime.
Brentwood never led by more than seven points in the second half, and the Trojans cut the lead to 51-50 on a steal and basket by Brian Fisher with 1:35 left.
However, Fisher, who led all scorers with 24 points, fouled out nine seconds later and the Trojans did not score again.
Brentwood iced the game by hitting six of eight free throws down the stretch.
Despite Fisher fouling out, the Trojans had chances.
After Brentwood converted one of two free throws to make the score 52-50, Trojan senior Tanner Huffman's 24-foot three-point attempt was halfway down before rolling out.
With 36 seconds to go and the Trojans down three, Huffman had a chance to tie the game, but again the rim was unkind to the senior as the shot fell out.
Huffman finished with 12 points, and Pergola spoke about his senior class that included Huffman, Fisher and Evan Patterson who had nine points.
“The three seniors who start have been with me for so long,” he said. “They gave everything they have had for four years.”
Jason Pilarski added 19 points for Bentwood and went over 1,000 career points with his first basket of the second half.
Despite the loss, Pergola reflected positively about his team's season in which the Trojans won the Section 5 AA title.
“I thought we played hard, and we won 18 games,” he said before smiling.
“If you tell me we will win 18 games next season, let's skip the season and go right to the playoffs,” he quipped.
Brentwood moves on to the first round where it takes on Shady Side Academy.
GirlsQuigley Catholic 81, California 38
California hung close early before fourth-seeded Quigley Catholic pulled away en route to an 81-38 win in a Class A first round contest.
“Their strengths were our weaknesses,” California Lady Trojan coach Chris Minerd said. “They have so much size and I tried to stress to the girls about boxing out, but we don't have their height.
“We hung in there until the second quarter and we were in the game but we couldn't put enough offense together.”
The Lady Trojans (14-8) were only down 15-10 toward the end of the first quarter, but Quigley (17-5) put on a shooting clinic.
Leading 19-12 after the first quarter, Quigley erupted for 28 points in the second quarter while California was only able to tally four.
Despite the loss, California senior Courtnee McMasters made school history by becoming the second player in program history to score 1,000 points and she finished with 1,002 for her career.
“For her, it is special because she has played for me for six years including middle school,” Minerd said. “It is big for the program and she missed time due to injury so she didn't play a full four seasons.”
Minerd spoke about his senior class of McMasters, Natalie Baron, and Abigail Helmick.
“The girls gave it their all,” he said. “Overall, solid careers for them and my girls gave it everything they had today.
“For the season, I have mixed emotions but hopefully we take some steps forward with some of the girls we have coming up.”
Quigley moves on to face 12th-seeded St. Joseph in the quarterfinals.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.