Clairton boys stun top-seeded Lincoln Park
Heading into Tuesday's semifinal against top seed Lincoln Park, it was being said that Clairton, a football team in basketball shorts, had no chance against the defending Class A champs.
One thing you don't want to do with this collection of Clairton Bears is disrespect them.
Clairton rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to outscore Lincoln Park, 12-3, over the decisive three minutes to stun Lincoln Park, 71-70, in front of an overflowing crowd at Keystone Oaks to advance to the WPIAL championship for the first time since 2006.
“They kept saying that we have football players,” said Boyd, a Pitt football recruit who scored the game-winning basket with 26 seconds left. “Sure it is a different sport, but we have athletes. We are never the underdogs ever, and we took offense to that.”
Clairton (16-6) will take on Vincentian (24-1), an 82-69 winner over North Catholic, at the Palumbo Center Friday at 7 p.m. with a chance to become the first teams since Central Catholic, Jeannette and Serra to win football and basketball titles in the same year.
“I knew our guys weren't going to back down,” Clairton coach Matt Geletko said. “We thought that we might want to play zone against them, but they wanted nothing to do with that. They said they wanted to play man-to-man, and they didn't care if they had 6-foot-8 or 6-6 kids. They didn't care.”
Boyd scored 20 and Titus Howard 19 while Bryon Clifford and Terrish Webb added 10 each.
Lincoln Park (19-6) got 24 points and five blocks from Elijah Minnie, 16 from Maverick Rowan and 10 from Ryan Skovranko.
“It's difficult to watch the kids and see how they react,” Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens said. “Are we the best club? On paper we are, but we still have to go out and play the game. They made some plays down at the end and we didn't.”
Clairton was able to withstand Lincoln Park's size advantage throughout the first half and into the third quarter before a strange-but-correct technical foul call on Howard swung the momentum in favor of the Leopards.
Howard hit a 3-pointer to get Clairton to within 51-50. Howard immediately turned to the Lincoln Park crowd and “propped” his shirt resulting in an immediate technical foul that made Geletko furious.
“These guys get fired up really easy,” Geletko said. “If they see their coach going nuts. I think we used that and fed off that.”
However, the opposite happened.
Lincoln Park ran off 10 straight points to take a 61-50 lead into the fourth quarter.
Clairton still trailed, 67-59, with three minutes left when the Bears made their move.
A 3-pointer by Howard made it 67-62, and a quick steal and basket by Clifford got the Bears to within three.
“People were saying that we don't have a chance and that we were going to lose by 30,” Webb said. “To us, that was a challenge.”
Boyd's 3-poiunter with 1:42 left made it 68-67. Following a Minnie turnover, Clifford's 10-footer gave the Bears the lead at 69-68 with a minute left.
“We had turnovers at crucial moments,” Javens said. “We're up 10, and we run a backdoor play and then it's open and we throw the ball away. We come down another time and we get a travel call and another time it's something else. It just snowballed.”
Lincoln Park took the lead with 40 seconds left on a Minnie alley-oop, but the Bears immediately pushed the ball up the floor, and Webb found Boyd for a lay-up and a 71-70 lead.
Minnie's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good, and Clairton came away with the improbable win.
“I honestly can't believe this,” Geletko said. “People think that when you have athletes that you can roll the ball out and they can play, and it is not like that. This team was on a mission and they accomplished it.”