Charleroi holds on for win over California
It is often said that life isn't fair.
The California Area Trojans are living proof of that after Friday's game.
The Trojans were rolling along in the midst of a five-game winning streak and were playing their fourth game in five days.
And they played hard and, for the most part well. Yet, all they had to show for their efforts, their win streak and playing four games in five days is a tough 54-50 Section 5 AA loss to Charleroi Area going into the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
“The kids played their hearts out,” said California coach Buno Pappasergi. “They gave everything they had, but they were tired. And I certainly won't take anything away from Charleroi, because I thought they played well, too.
“It doesn't seem fair now. But I can't complain about what they kids have given me this week. Sometimes, we just try to play too fast and that's what happened tonight.”
The Cougars (13-7, 11-3) not only ended the win streak for California (10-12, 8-6), but they also extended their own winning streak to three games going into the postseason.
“I just thought all of our kids played well,” said a happy Charleroi coach Bill Wiltz. “We fell behind, we battled back and we hung on at the end. We didn't lose our composure. This is a good win for us. We'll take it.”
California led by as many as nine points (33-24) with 4:17 left in the third quarter when Demetri Clements hit a layup for two of his game-high 29 points.
However, Charleroi went on a big run behind the hot hand of Ryan Konek.
Charleroi outscored California 21-9 to take a 45-42 lead with 5:28 to play in the game as Konek scored 12 of the 21 points.
“Ryan just got the hot hand and we kept getting it to him,” said Wiltz. “He got us back in the game almost by himself.”
“We seemed to be in control and then Konek just went crazy on us,” said Pappasergi. “Give him credit. He found the open spots in our defense and he scored.”
Charleroi got the lead as big as five points down the stretch before Clements converted a three-point-play to make it 52-50 with 50 seconds to go.
The Trojans had two big chances at the end, but couldn't convert.
With 13 seconds left, Cal forced a tie-up to get possession of the ball and on the play Konek was called for a technical foul.
But Clements, who had made four free throws in a row, missed both technical shots.
Then, with six seconds left, Cal freshman Kass Taylor missed a three-point attempt from the corner. Charleroi's Matt Carr grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Carr made both free throws with 3.5 seconds left to ice the win.
After the game, Taylor was disconsolate in the dressing room and Pappaergi offered his young player encouragement.
“I told him, ‘You're a 14-year-old freshman and you had the guts to take that shot. I'm proud of you.' He feels so bad, but I am proud of him,” Pappasergi said. “I'm so darn proud of all of them.”
Clements was the lone Trojan in double figures as he scored 10 points in each of the second and third quarters.
Austin Wingo added nine points for the Trojans.
John Arnold led Charleroi with 18 points, including 12 in the second half. Konek finished with 14 and Matt Indorante 10.
“I like where we are going into the playoffs,” Wiltz said. “I think we're coming around. We'll see what happens.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.