Hempfield snaps playoff losing streak by topping Mt. Lebanon
The playoff losing streak for the Hempfield boys basketball program is finally over.
The sixth-seeded Spartans ended the streak of WPIAL Class AAAA first-round losses by coasting to a 74-56 victory against Mt. Lebanon on Wednesday at Canon-McMillan. It was the Spartans' first playoff win since 2003.
The Spartans will play No. 3 seed North Allegheny, which defeated Norwin, in a quarterfinal-round game Saturday at a site and time to be determined. North Allegheny downed Norwin, 66-36.
“I don't know what happened in the past or care,” first-year Hempfield coach Mark Marino said. “We're happy, but we have lofty expectations. We proved we were playing our best basketball coming into the playoffs.
“We have a saying and it was our motto at practice this week, ‘Just do your job.' Whatever your role is, if we do it 100 percent, we're going to get consistent results. And I was happy with those results.”
Hempfield (21-2) broke opened a tight game by going on 10-0 run to end the first quarter and grab a 21-10 lead.
The Spartans stretched their lead to 42-20 by halftime behind the one-two punch of Logan Hunter and Kason Harrell.
Hunter scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the first half and Harrell had 12 of his 16.
“As a team, we were mentally focused,” Hunter said. “We haven't got much respect over the years, so we wanted to get that one off our back. I thought we played our best game of the year.”
Hempfield was 29 for 43 from the field, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range. Mt. Lebanon was only 17 for 43. The Spartans also out-rebounded Mt. Lebanon, 30-22.
Tony Pilato, the 6-foot-8 center, scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half when Hempfield worked for more shots in the paint.
Mt. Lebanon (11-12) just couldn't handle the Spartans big trio.
“When Kason can be your third scoring option, that's a good night,” Marino said. “When you're led by Logan and Tony and Kason still gets his, that's good.”
But what impressed Marino even more was his team's second-half performance.
“Mt. Lebanon is battle-tested,” Marino said. “I don't care what their record is. Their section obviously is extremely well respected by the WPIAL committee to the degree of some of the seedings they got.
“We knew they were going to throw some punches in the third and fourth quarter and I thought we were able to respond very well. We stayed patient and we were disciplined.”
Jonny David, the coach's son, hit five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 31 points for Mt. Lebanon, the third-place team from Section 4.
After Hempfield opened up 44-20 lead early in the third quarter, the Blue Devils scraped their way to within 48-33 by outscoring the Spartans 13-4.
That would be as close as they would get.
“They are a very good basketball team, and I knew we had to play very well to beat them,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joey David said. “They are physical, they're big and we're not. We don't have the athletes they have.
“We had to stay with them early but it got away. We don't catch up very well. They were just the better team.”