Kiski Area changes gears to down Penn-Trafford
No slow-downs this time for Kiski Area. No cradling the ball like it was team picture day while Penn-Trafford agonizingly wished for a shot clock.
Instead, a fast start helped repel Penn-Trafford's triangle-and-2 defense and Kiski Area was able to handle some panicky moments during a comeback by the Warriors to win 56-49 on Friday night in Harrison City.
With its sixth straight win, Kiski Area (14-4, 10-1) moves a game closer to defending its Section 1-AAAA title, while Penn-Trafford (5-14, 2-8) continues to show glimpses of a what could lie ahead for a young team.
Already in the WPIAL playoffs, Kiski Area demonstrated how it would like to play from this point on, both Tuesday in what amounts to the Section 1-AAAA championship against Hempfield Area and through to the playoffs.
“We have made games way too interesting,” Kiski Area first-year coach Joey Tutchstone said. “We were better prepared this time. We didn't have to wait on them. We wanted to play and go.”
Their first meeting on Jan. 9 drew attention not for its highlight-reel plays but for its delirious boredom. Kiski Area edged Penn-Trafford, 30-29 — in overtime.
Countering a triangle-and-2 defense aimed at containing stars Mike Simmons and Joey Brungo, Kiski Area held the ball for minutes at a time. Players said they spent more time standing than moving.
Kiski Area didn't score in the second half and Penn-Trafford put up just three points in the final two quarters of regulation. Third-quarter scoring went like this: Penn-Trafford 1, Kiski Area 0.
Kiski Area picked up the pace in overtime, outscoring the visitors 8-7.
This time, players who weren't seen as threats got things started. Ryan Sciullo hit three 3-pointers and Lincoln Clayton made two to push Kiski Area to a 24-9 after one quarter.
“People see that Mike Simmons and Joey Brungo are our leading scorers, but we put faith in our other guys, and they came up big tonight,” Tutchstone said.
Kiski Area used crisp passing to maintain a double-digit lead through to the fourth quarter. That's when Penn-Trafford woke up and made it a game.
With Kiski Area up 48-34 with 3:25 to go, the Warriors reeled off eight straight points, including consecutive 3s by Sean Stinelli and Matt Bailley. Then, 6-foot-7 center Sam Kavel converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to get the Warriors within 50-47 with 47.3 seconds.
Kavel had a game-high 17 points and Tim Vecchio added 10 for Penn-Trafford.
Forced to foul, Penn-Trafford sent Kiski Are to the line eight times in the final 1:38. Kiski Area made all eight to seal it.
“I'd have felt foolish if we hadn't tried the triangle-and-2 again,” Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said. “We had Hampton use it against us, little Penn-Trafford, in a playoff game last year. We attempted to take (Simmons and Brungo) out of it. But it's a risk you take with other guys hitting shots. That made us change up after the first quarter.”
Simmons, battling flu-like symptoms, managed a team-high 16 points, including 12 of 13 free throws. Brungo had 12, while Sciullo and Clayton added nine apiece.
“Simmons had a 103-degree temperature yesterday,” Tutchstone said. “He wasn't himself and made some bad decisions, but he showed he is a fighter.”
Simmons and Brungo agreed that a full practice to get ready for the unique defense paid dividends.
“We thought they might come out in man,” Brungo said. “But we were ready for it. We had other guys step up. We have to learn to finish better though. I joke with coach that we're just getting him (accustomed) to Quad-A basketball.”
Yarosik was pleased to see his team battle until the end.
“We were down 17-0 against Latrobe and came back to cut it to three,” he said. “They showed how much fight they have in them to come back like that.”
Kiski Area made 21 of 25 free throws.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.