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No. 3 Hempfield handles Connellsville to stay unbeaten in section

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 11:27 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Michael Parlak (5) and Hempfield's Michael Nauman (4) chase after a loose ball during a Section 1-AAAA game on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 at Connellsville High School.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Jimmy Leichliter puts up a shot during a Section 1-AAAA game against Hempfield on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 at Connellsville High School.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Michael Parlak (5) tries to knock the ball from Hempfield's Michael Nauman during a Section 1-AAAA game on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, at Connellsville High School.

The Connellsville boys basketball team turned in one of its best efforts of the season Friday against visiting Hempfield. However, the first-place Spartans are used to getting everybody's best, and they certainly know how to handle it.

Despite big games from Trent Bauer, Jimmy Leichliter and Jade Maher, Connellsville couldn't overtake No. 3 Hempfield as the Spartans pulled away late for a 70-57 victory in Section 1-AAAA action.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Connellsville coach Dan Bosnic said. “Hempfield is a good basketball team, and the score isn't indicative of what happened in this basketball game.”

What happened was that the Spartans found themselves in a dogfight for nearly the entire game.

“We tell the kids that they have to understand that we are going to get everybody's All-American effort,” Hempfield coach Mark Marino said. “When they get three consistent scorers going, they are difficult to stop, but we responded to their great offensive plays.”

From the start, the game was played at a high pace. An uptempo first quarter was mostly led by the Falcons as Maher knocked down three 3-pointers and Bauer hit three baskets from down low. Bauer finished with 16 points and Maher ended with 13 points.

But despite their fast start, the Falcons (9-8, 3-5) couldn't shake the Spartans (14-1, 8-0) as Logan Hunter, Michael Nauman and Kason Harrell kept Hempfield close.

Then in the closing seconds of the first quarter, Nauman stole the ball and buried a shot to give the Spartans a 22-20 edge.

Harrell led all scorers with 24 points, and Nauman and Hunter collected 16 and 15 points, respectively.

In the second quarter, the Falcons got into foul trouble but stayed in the game with a gritty effort highlighted by a 3-pointer from Mike Parlak. At the half, Hempfield led 36-29.

“We got into a situation in the second quarter with three starters down (with foul trouble), but we maintained,” Bosnic said.

The Falcons closed the gap in the third quarter with Leichliter hitting a couple of shots to help the Falcons pull within 48-44 heading to the fourth. Leichliter finished with 14 points.

Connellsville hung tough early in the quarter but never could put together a rally to overtake Hempfield.

Each time the Falcons tried to make a run, Nauman and Harrell were there to respond with a big-time shot to keep the visitors out in front.

Harrell, in particular, made big plays down the stretch. He, along with Nauman, Hunter and Tony Pilato, also came up big from the foul line with the game on the line.

Foul shooting was one aspect of the game that was a disappointment for Connellsville. The Falcons were 6 of 12 from the line compared to Hempfield's 19-of-25 effort.

“The difference was the little things,” Bosnic said.

But overall, it was a game the Falcons hope they can build on as they try to make a second-half push to qualify for the playoffs.

“I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm not disappointed in the effort,” Bosnic said. “Hempfield is winning the section for a reason. Hopefully we can play our best basketball moving forward.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at jblack@tribweb.com.

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