Central Valley captures thrilling championship in double overtime

Chris Harlan
| Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 11:33 p.m.

Central Valley's Tony Gates drew a foul and made one free throw with 0.6 seconds left in double overtime to claim Friday night's 70-69 victory over Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL Class AAA championship at Palumbo Center.

Tied at 69, Gates drove into the lane and Chartiers Valley's Kyle Westover was called for a block. With 00.6 on the clock, Gates made his first free throw and his teammates erupted in celebration. He missed the second toss, but Chartiers Valley had no time to answer.

“I'm used to knocking down free throws in the clutch,” said Gates, who'd been held scoreless in regulation, but scored seven points in the two overtimes. “I practice.”

“He's one of our best free throw shooters,” teammate Mike Sims said. “We depend on him.”

But the Warriors really had little choice. Jacob St. George had 17 points, John George had 12 and Sims had 10. But all three Central Valley starters were on the bench with five fouls.

“We did it without some guys in the game there at the end,” Central Valley coach Brandon Ambrose said. “I guess that's why you build depth.”

Brian Kolich scored 11 points off the bench for No. 2 Central Valley (22-3). Matty McConnell had 22 points for No. 1 Chartiers Valley (24-2) and made a tough layup with 48 seconds left to force the 69-69 tie. Jerrad Tuite had 26 points and Eddie Flohr added 13 points for the Colts, who were runners-up for the second consecutive season.

Central Valley overcame a 12-point first-half deficit and needed two extraordinary plays just to reach the second overtime. A driving layup by Sims with 4.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter forced the first overtime. A steal and go-ahead layup by Gates with 18.5 seconds left forced the second, when Tuite made a game-tying free throw with 14 seconds left but missed his second shot.

Tuite, who clinched his team's semifinal win with free throws, was 17 of 20 from the line.

This was just the fourth season for Central Valley, which became a school in 2010 when Beaver County neighbors Center and Monaca merged. But the Warriors needed just one visit to Palumbo to claim their first WPIAL basketball title.

“I had a feeling we'd win it,” Ambrose said. “... I just thought it was our time, our turn.”

Led by McConnell, Chartiers Valley started well. The Colts led 6-0 when McConnell made three free throws and 8-1 before Central Valley could make a basket. Six more points by McConnell gave Chartiers Valley a 14-4 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter. McConnell had 10 of his team's first 14 points.

A three by Tuite made the lead 17-5.

But Central Valley recovered with a 13-2 run that included the first quarter's final six points when Matt Kline's free throw finished a three-point play with 22 seconds left. The Warriors' run had cut Chartiers Valley's lead to one point midway into the second quarter. When Kolich made two free throws with 5:07 left in the second quarter, Chartiers Valley led 19-18.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Central Valley's Chris Anastas and Chartiers Valley's Westover just before halftime marked the first of seven lead changes. There also were six ties at 29, 49, 55, 63, 67 and 69. The final three came in double overtime.

“I hated every moment of it,” Sims said, “but I loved every minute of it at the same time because we just prevailed.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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