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Knoch succumbs to Blackhawk in WPIAL 1st-round game

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 12:24 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Matt Zanella gets blocked by Blackhawk's Tyler Engle during the playoff basketball game at North Allegheny High School in Wexford on Tuesday, February 18, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's David Gallagher drives to the hoop against Blackhawk's Dave Hornfeck during the playoff basketball game at North Allegheny High School in Wexford on Tuesday, February 18, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Chris Kier drives past Blackhawk's Tyler Nicholson during the playoff basketball game at North Allegheny High School in Wexford on Tuesday, February 18, 2014.

Blackhawk coach Andy Hedrick saw his game plan unraveling, with two key players in early foul trouble and Knoch using its height advantage.

But the Cougars used superb ball-handling — they committed only five turnovers — and clogged Knoch's driving lanes to the basket.

It resulted in a 49-42 Blackhawk victory in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round game at North Allegheny.

The Cougars (12-11) moved on to face Thomas Jefferson in the quarterfinals Friday at a time and site to be determined.

Blackhawk is 118-41 all-time in postseason play.

Knoch, a Section 1-AAA tri-champion, closed its most successful season in 10 years with a 16-5 record.

“Chase (Migliore) and Ben (Rinehart) were in foul trouble, and we stalled,” Hedrick said. “We were buying minutes. But we had an eight-point lead, and we made it to the half, and that was big.”

Another key factor was Blackhawk's defense, which held the Knights without a field goal for 8:20 in one stretch.

Knoch hit just 34.5 percent from the field.

“We had a size advantage, but they do such a good job of pressuring guards that it was hard to make our entry pass,” Knights coach Ron McNabb said.

“They're a physical team, they bumped us and took us off our cuts, and they displaced us.”

Blackhawk's defense often collapsed toward the hoop.

“I thought our kids did a real good job helping out in the post. We were giving up some height,” Hedrick said. “I also thought they got a couple of open shots from the outside that they just didn't hit in the second half.”

After Knoch led for much of the first quarter, Tyler Engle's 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the quarter tied the score 12-12.

Chris Cassidy's 3-point basket 19 seconds into the second quarter gave the Cougars the lead for good.

Knoch cut the Cougars' lead to 32-27 with 3:02 left in the third quarter. But Engle was fouled attempting a 3-pointer from the corner and made all three free throws.

Knoch couldn't get any closer after that point.

Blackhawk had just six team fouls in the second half going into the final minute of play, furthering hampering the Knights' chances to catch up via free-throw shooting.

It all made for what Knoch thought was a premature end to its season.

“I told them to make sure they walked out of here tonight with their heads held high,” McNabb said. “We accomplished things here at Knoch that we haven't accomplished in 10 years. That's a very good team we lost to, and they're very well coached.”

Matt Zanella led the Knights with 15 points. Austin Miller, playing despite a thigh injury, scored 14.

Jim Larrimer had nine rebounds for Knoch.

Engle had 19 points for Blackhawk.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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