Vincentian ousts Clairton
Rather than easy baskets, Vincentian Academy converted turnovers into easy free throws.
“We knew the pressure they were going to apply, and we had a hard time handling it,” said Clairton coach Matt Geletko, whose Bears had 40 turnovers and endured two lopsided first-half runs in Friday night's 88-51 quarterfinal loss to Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL Class A playoffs at West Allegheny. “It seemed like when we did beat the pressure, we couldn't convert. That's what they do to teams.”
Vincentian used a 13-2 run in the first quarter and a 16-3 run in the second to claim control. But those turnovers didn't always lead to easy baskets. Many led to free throws. When the layups weren't falling, the 15-footers were.
The Royals made 28 of 39 free throws. Junior forward Jay Cortese, who led Vincentian with 23 points, was 14 of 16 from the foul line.
“The kids have really been working at their foul shots,” Vincentian coach George Yokitis said. “We usually don't spend as much time, but we've spent a lot of time this year. Maybe it's paying off.”
This was a rematch of last season's WPIAL Class A final that Vincentian won 86-74. But this Clairton lineup had only one player who played at Palumbo Center.
No. 2 Vincentian (22-2) will face Monessen in the semifinals. Only the top four WPIAL finishers in Class A reach the state playoffs, so this was a season-ending loss for No. 10 Clairton (10-7).
“I wish we could have given a little better showing,” Geletko said. “Our kids played hard, they really did. But we're playing a really good team.”
Vincentian sophomore Jamison Nee, who had 14 points, made 4 of 5 from the line. Senior Jim Kenna added 11 points and made 7 of 8 free throws. Junior Ryan Wolf was 2 for 2 and had 18 points.
“They get themselves in position (to be fouled),” Geletko said. “They go to the hoop under control, and they know how to get you in bad positions and draw contact. It's almost like they force the officials to make a call.”
A pair of free throws by Cortese with 1.5 seconds left in the first quarter gave Vincentian a 19-9 lead. The Royals made 16 of 21 first-half free throws.
“We attack,” Yokitis said. “That's not uncommon for us (to attempt that many), but it is uncommon for us to make that many. So that was good.”
The teams combined for 61 free throws in a start-and-stop contest that was interrupted often. Clairton made 13 of 22 but only four in the first half.
Senior Jaquan Ford led Clairton with 20 points, and senior Rashead Pacley had 10.
With five minutes left before halftime, Clairton trailed 28-22. But Vincentian sparked a 16-3 run to pull away. The Royals led 44-27 at halftime and by 30 points in the third quarter.
“We play in runs,” Yokitis said. “We score 12 or 14 points just like that. That's how we play, so I was hoping we would get one.”