Apollo-Ridge ousted in WPIAL Class AA semifinals
The Beaver Falls boys basketball team showed Wednesday why it's the top-ranked team in the WPIAL and the state.
Relentless defensive pressure forced 16 Apollo-Ridge turnovers in the first half, and the Tigers rolled to a 71-39 victory over the Vikings in a WPIAL Class AA semifinal at North Allegheny.
Beaver Falls (22-3) will go after the school's ninth WPIAL basketball title and second in a row at 1 p.m. Saturday versus Burrell at Palumbo Center.
Apollo-Ridge (18-8), which earned the second semifinal appearance in the school's 44-year history, will be idle until March 9 when the Vikings enter PIAA tournament play at a site and time to be determined.
Drew Cook led the Tigers with 16 points, while Elijah Cottrill and Cadee Akins added 14 each.
“It's no secret, for the last 14 years, our best offense is our defense,” Tigers coach Doug Biega said. “This year, more than in most years, we have a lot of guys that can apply pressure at every position.”
Beaver Falls has won its three playoff games by an average of 34 points.
“They're athletic, and we didn't take care of the basketball like we needed to,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “They shot lights-out in the first quarter, and it was over quickly.”
Four straight baskets off steals turned into eight Beaver Falls points during a first-quarter stretch. Even when Apollo-Ridge made a solid defensive play when Tre Tipton soared above the hoop, a goaltending call resulted and Akins was awarded two points.
The Tigers led, 25-6, at the end of one quarter, nearly equal to the 24-6 lead Jeannette had against the Vikings last Saturday.
But there would be no Apollo-Ridge comeback Wednesday; Beaver Falls started the second period on a 15-3 run to put the game away.
“You want to remove all doubt, but Jeannette was up, 24-6, on this team,” Biega said. “We knew when we got up to that lead, our mindset is a little bit different — we're going to continue to apply pressure throughout the game.”
“It was pressure like we hadn't seen before,” Gourley said. “All our kids had trouble. If they held the ball for any length of time, they were getting thefts. Beaver Falls did a real nice job executing their defense, and we got beat down the floor all night long.”
The Tigers led, 51-12, at the half. As soon as Danny Stratton scored the opening basket of the third quarter, the PIAA's continuous clock rules came into play.
Lucas Burrell led the Vikings with 14 points.
The PIAA is expected to release first-round sites and times Sunday afternoon.
George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.