Rivalry nets another close thriller as St. Joseph edges Leechburg
It was proven again Friday night why the St. Joseph-Leechburg rivalry is one of the Alle-Kiski Valley's best over the last 36 seasons.
The Spartans erased a nine-point deficit in the final 4:09 and emerged from Lewis Hicks Gym with a 68-66 victory in a thrilling Section 4-A encounter.
A basket by junior Sam Beaver with 25 seconds to go lifted St. Joseph (6-8, 3-1) to the road victory.
The Spartans are a half-game behind Wilkinsburg in the section standings, while Leechburg dropped to 5-8, 0-5.
The Blue Devils had a 63-57 advantage with 2:10 to go when St. Joseph tallied a five-point play.
A 3-point field goal by Bill Sadecky took place while Beaver was being fouled near the hoop. Beaver canned both free throws as the Spartans cut the Leechburg lead to 63-62.
A basket by Randy Smail put the Blue Devils up by three before Sadecky answered with another 3-pointer, his second and final field goal of the night to tie the game.
“Without a doubt, those baskets by Sadecky propelled us,” said St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson. “He had been struggling with himself throughout the game. It means so much to see someone like that who had been struggling to come out and focus enough.”
Beaver picked off a tipped Leechburg pass with 1:09 left. Robinson took two time outs and set up the winning hoop.
Beaver came out toward the foul line where he was being guarded, then slipped back toward the hoop alone and caught a pass from Dan Sullivan to give the Spartans the lead.
The Blue Devils had two chances to tie or win the game outright in the final 25 seconds but couldn't convert. Leechburg has lost all five section games by 12 points or less.
“That five-point play was a big turnaround tonight,” said Leechburg coach Damian Davies. “We have great practices, 5 on 5, and that gives us a lot of confidence.”
Beaver had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Sullivan added 15 points.
Ryan McDermott came off the bench to lead Leechburg with 19 points. Jordan Cominos had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
George Guido is a freelance writer.