McKeesport boys split pair of tournament games
It was a teaching experience that resulted in a learning experience for the McKeesport boys basketball team.
The unranked Tigers came away from a tough field at the Hempfield Tipoff Tournament over the weekend, salvaging a victory in two games against Class AA ranked opponents.
Before the first game — a heartbreaking 70-67 loss to Class AA No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic — McKeesport coach Corey Gadson knew his players were excited to have their season get under way.
“The guys were hyped. They expect success,” Gadson said.
But it didn't happen right away. McKeesport, which committed 22 turnovers, was inconsistent, rallying from a big deficit to take the lead at halftime, then falling behind by too large a margin to make up the difference down the stretch against a GCC team that reached the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs a year ago.
McKeesport came back on Saturday to edge Class AA No. 4 Jeannette 60-58. Gadson's son William hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points for the Tigers, who compete in the WPIAL Section 2-AAAA with the likes of No. 3 Gateway, No. 4 Fox Chapel and No. 6 Central Catholic.
“We're definitely working hard,” Gadson said. “But if you don't stick with it, the success is not going to happen.”
In Saturday's other tournament game, GCC beat its second consecutive Class AAAA opponent, edging host No. 5 Hempfield 71-69.
The No. 10 Norwin boys, another Class AAAA team in The (McKeesport) Daily News region of Trib Total Media, were outclassed on Saturday in a 74-34 loss to top-ranked Hampton at the Penn-Trafford Tournament after the Knights opened the year on Friday with a 75-52 victory over Class AAA Mt. Pleasant.
Meanwhile, two boys teams and one girls team from The Daily News region won both of their games at season-opening tournaments.
The Elizabeth Forward boys, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA in the Trib Total Media preseason rankings, got little resistance from their opponents, beating a pair of Class AA teams -- South Allegheny and Brownsville -- by an average of 28 points.
“We're concentrating on fundamentals,” Elizabeth Forward coach Gerald Grayson said. “We have a couple of new guys, so basically what I was looking for was improvement each minute. We're improving from practice session to practice session. That's all I can ask for as a coach.”
Elizabeth Forward opened with a 50-32 victory over South Allegheny on Friday, then, behind 15 points from Austin Matta and 12 each from George Prota and JaQuan Davidson, came back on Saturday to rout Brownsville 64-27.
The Class AAA No. 3 Elizabeth Forward girls also rolled to a pair of victories at the Southmoreland Tournament, trouncing Derry 55-27, and Southmoreland 75-28.
Class AAA Steel Valley swept a pair of boys games at the Brentwood Tournament, beating South Park 61-44, and City League opponent Carrick 71-52.
Also, the Class AAA No. 8 West Mifflin boys opened with a victory by edging Class AA No. 8 Serra Catholic, 46-44, on Friday.
Elsewhere, the Class AAA No. 6 Thomas Jefferson boys went 1-1 against Class AAAA competition, dropping a 74-60 decision to Quad-A No. 9 Bethel Park in its opener on Friday at the Bethel Park Tournament and outlasting District 10 Erie McDowell, 75-67, on Saturday.
One other ranked boys team was idle. Class A No. 6 Clairton doesn't open its schedule until Dec. 14 against visiting Imani Christian.
In other girls games involving ranked teams, Class AAA No. 5 West Mifflin came away from the McKeesport Tournament with a split. The Titans suffered a heartbreaking 50-49 loss to Class AAAA McKeesport before ousting Obama Academy 60-41.
And Class A No. 2 Serra Catholic went 1-1 at its own tournament, scoring a forfeit victory against inexperienced Wilkinsburg before dropping a 70-60 decision in an early-season showdown to No. 1 Vincentian Academy.
In the opener, Wilkinsburg was outscored by Serra Catholic, 28-0, after the first quarter before boarding a bus back to its school because of inclement weather on Friday.
Serra Catholic's game on Saturday against top-ranked Vincentian Academy was encouraging to Eagles coach Bill Cleary.
“It was a good ballgame,” he said. “It was back and forth, and we played hard up until the end. We were in some serious foul trouble all night long, so there were a lot of kids coming off the bench and they were battling. You hate to lose, but all-in-all, it was a great night.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.