Clairton holds off East Allegheny in season opener
Clairton waited a long time to play its season-opening boys basketball game, and the wait turned out to be worthwhile for the Bears.
Isaiah Hollis scored 15 points, and Rasheed Pacley hit the go-ahead basket with 40 seconds left Friday night to lift WPIAL Class A runner-up Clairton to a ragged 54-48 victory over Class AAA East Allegheny.
“For the first game, it's a win. We'll take it,” Clairton coach Matt Geletko said.
Pacley finished with 14 points, and Aaron Matthews added 12 for Clairton (1-0), which was the last WPIAL team to play an opener.
“We're going to have to learn how to play together on the fly,” Geletko said. “We need to try to control the emotions.”
Clairton, which fell to Vincentian Academy in the 2012-13 WPIAL Class A championship game, is sporting an entirely new lineup after the loss of its top six players from that 18-7 team that dropped a two-point decision to District 9 Smethport in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.
Included among the departed was point guard Bryon Clifford, the Trib Total Media/Daily News Player of the year.
“We have a lot of things to work on,” Geletko said. “We didn't handle the ball very well and, offensively, we just couldn't get into a flow. We just don't have that guy that can settle things down for us.”
Both teams struggled to overcome turnovers in a sloppily played game at East Allegheny that saw a total of 39 free throws attempted.
East Allegheny (0-7) also entered the year starting over. The Wildcats, who lost eight regulars from a year ago, held a seven-point lead in the third quarter but went scoreless over the final five minutes of the period, allowing Clairton to jump in front.
Senior Isaiah Hampton, who came off the bench to lead East Allegheny with 12 points, hit a 3-pointer during the first minute of the fourth quarter to end the Wildcats' scoring drought and tie the score at 37-37.
The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way until Pacley's foul-line jumper put Clairton ahead for good, 50-48.
“We're just very, very inexperienced,” East Allegheny coach Vernon Benson said. “It's going to be tough to overcome, but we'll keep at it.”
Prior to Pacley's go-ahead basket, Hampton missed a dunk off a half-court steal with 1:04 left that would have given East Allegheny a lead.
After each team committed a turnover, Clairton got the ball to Pacley just outside the paint, and his jumper from the foul line gave the Bears a lead they wouldn't give up.
Hollis scored on a breakaway layup, then followed with a pair of free throws, capping a game-ending, 6-0 run by Clairton.
“We just made too many turnovers at crucial times,” Benson said. “For much of the time, we have three juniors and two sophomores on the floor. We've got to get a victory.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.