Cook leads Gladiators to victory
Until this season, Ty Cook had never played high school basketball. To watch him perform, you'd think he'd been playing all along.
Cook avoided two potential serious injuries and scored 23 points to lead South Allegheny past visiting Serra Catholic, 51-33, in a WPIAL Section 3 game on Tuesday night. It was the Gladiators' fifth consecutive victory.
Jeiron Lewis added 13 points for South Allegheny (10-4, 5-1), which broke open a close game with a 29-15 edge in the second half.
“I'm just very competitive. I love to compete and I love to play sports,” said Cook, a high-profile football player at South Allegheny who said he's considering scholarship offers from Delaware and Division II schools Slippery Rock and Notre Dame (Ohio).
Has success in hoops swayed his allegiance?
“I just love the game of football,” he said. “That's what I would love to play in college.”
Cook played quarterback and safety for the rebuilding Gladiators this season, but his athletic prowess has been on display on the basketball court of late. The 6-foot-1 senior is leading South Allegheny in scoring and posted his fifth 20-point game of the season by shooting 10 for 13, mainly on a variety of shots from around the basket.
“He was clearly the difference in this game,” Serra Catholic coach Vince Gibbons said. “We tried all kinds of different matchups against him, and nothing worked.”
Cook scored 13 of South Allegheny's first-half points as the Gladiators took a 22-18 lead into the break.
For awhile, they couldn't shake Serra Catholic (3-9, 2-4), which lost its fourth game in a row in the sixth in the past seven, until Derek Vargo's 3-point shot midway through the third quarter gave South Allegheny a 31-24 lead.
The Gladiators led 33-26 after three quarters then outscored Serra Catholic 18-7 in the fourth, holding the Eagles scoreless for the first 4 minutes, 23 seconds while building a 41-26 advantage.
Lewis scored nine of his 13 points during the period.
“This is a very unselfish group we have this year,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiCenzo said. “That's something we've preached to them all summer and into the season. We want them sharing the ball. They've been doing it, and it's paying off.”
Cook escaped a serious injury when he was poked in the eye in the first quarter and struggled to leave the court. He sat on the bench holding his face for several minutes, then returned in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Cook took a nasty fall near the basket, flipping over another player and landing on his tailbone. It appeared that Cook hit his head on the floor, but he said afterward that it didn't make contact.
“I landed right on my back,” he said. “I'm lucky it wasn't worse. I'm OK.”
He left the floor briefly, but returned moments later.
Cook also took another fall near the basket in the fourth quarter but wasn't injured and stayed on the floor.
“He's quite an athlete,” DiCenzo said. “We had him out on the perimeter early on in the season, but we realized that he was our best rebounder, so he's been playing inside.”
DiCenzo credited his team's defense for stifling Serra Catholic's high-scoring guards, Tyler Grebur, Max Kaminsky and Joe Satira.
Grebur's 10 points paced Serra Catholic, which lost its fourth game in a row and sixth in the past seven. He was the only Eagles player in double figures.
“We've got to come back now and beat some teams if we're going to make the playoffs,” Gibbons said. “South Allegheny played well. We didn't. We couldn't stop Cook. That was the simple difference in the game.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.