Kittanning wins 2 straight playoff games for 1st time since 1925
Stressed by the man-to-man, full-court pressure Central Valley presented in the opening minute of Tuesday's WPIAL Class AAA first-round game, Kittanning senior Sterling Henry turned to his favorite in-action therapy: He threw one down on a fast break.
Henry and the Wildcats (20-4) matched the intensity of No. 5 seed Central Valley (16-7) and came away victorious, scoring the final six points in a 67-62 win at Hampton. Kittanning's consecutive playoff wins — last accomplished in 1925 — advanced the team to the quarterfinals, where it will play No. 4 Beaver (18-3) on Friday.
“At the beginning, I was really nervous,” said Henry, who finished with a game-high 30 points. “I didn't know if I was going to get rid of them. But it wore off, especially once I got that first dunk.”
Henry's steal and the slam that followed one minute into the game set the tone in this up-tempo clash. Kittanning had six turnovers in the first quarter, while Central Valley had five.
“They check the (box) scores, and I think going in, they felt confident they could compete with (Central Valley),” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “They knew (Central Valley's players) were going to come right up in our faces and pressure our guards. ... At times, we didn't handle it well, and at times, we did.”
The third quarter featured a duel between Sterling Henry and Central Valley's Mike Sims, who scored 10 of his 13 points during that period. Henry, who had 14 points in the quarter, sank two 3-pointers, twice attacked the center lane for layups and had two fast-break baskets.
Kittanning remained ahead of or even with the Warriors until midway through the fourth quarter, when Brian Kolich sank back-to-back 3-pointers to put Central Valley ahead, 56-54.
Tension arose in the final three minutes, but Sterling Henry sank all four free throws he shot in the final 30 seconds to put Kittanning ahead for good. Mike Sims launched a potential game-tying 3-pointer with about 5 seconds left, but Alek Schaffer grabbed the rebound for Kittanning.
“The teams we've struggled with the most this year are the ones that are long,” Central Valley coach Brandon Ambrose said. “We're small; our guards are small. And that makes it hard for us to create.”