Connellsville keeps playoff hopes alive with OT win
With its season on the line, Connellsville played perhaps one of its best games of the season Friday, and the Falcons were rewarded with an 80-73 overtime victory over visiting Latrobe in a Section 1-AAAA boys basketball battle.
Michael Parlak drilled a pair of 3-pointers in overtime to key the Falcons' clutch victory.
The win means the Falcons can clinch a playoff spot with victories against Norwin and Albert Gallatin in their final two section games.
“We knew going in that we needed to win to keep our season alive,” Connellsville coach Dan Bosnic said. “We've put ourselves in position to go to Norwin (on Tuesday) and take another step forward.”
The Falcons (10-9, 4-6) had big-time performances up and down the lineup. Trent Bauer (20 points), Caleb Pittsment (18), Jimmy Leichliter (15) and Jade Maher (13) all were consistent producers.
The size of Bauer and Pittsment came into play as each dominated in the paint.
“I thought Caleb Pittsment did a great job of going after the basketball,” Bosnic said. “Bauer was terrific. He was all over the court.”
Latrobe (9-8, 4-5), fighting for third place in the section, received an 18-point effort from Matt Cullen, 14 points from Sean Graytok and 10 from Lane Loughner.
“I think both teams gave it their all,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “Connellsville played like a team with their backs to the wall and their best was better than what we had tonight. But it wasn't for lack of effort.”
Each team held leads throughout the game. Pittsment gave the Falcons a big spark in the first half as he stole a pass, hit a shot and was fouled for a three-point play late in the second quarter.
Then as time expired, he banked in a shot from underneath the basket to give Connellsville a 42-37 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Latrobe turned the tables as Cullen hit a pair of 3-pointers to help the Wildcats outscore Connellsville, 25-13, to take a 62-55 lead into the fourth.
Then it was Connellsville's turn to regain the momentum as the Falcons went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth. Bauer, Pittsment and Maher continued to play hard in the paint and came up with big baskets. The Falcons led 69-66 in the closing seconds but couldn't seal the deal from the foul line. With 1 second left in regulation, Graytok drained a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime tied 69-69.
Despite giving up the lead in dramatic fashion, the Falcons stayed focused, and Parlak drilled 3-pointers on Connellsville's first two possessions of overtime, giving the home team a 75-69 lead, and the Falcons never looked back on their way to the huge win.
“Often something like that will deflate you,” Bosnic said of Graytok's game-tying 3-pointer. “But we were composed, and Parlak hit two big shots.”
The Falcons control their own playoffs destiny. Wins in its final two games will give Connellsville no less than a share of fourth place in the section and a spot in the postseason.
“It's a two-game season,” Bosnic said. “We're in playoff mode.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.