Defensive stop sets tone in Erie McDowell win over Kiski Area
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ERIE — The Kiski Area Cavaliers were in the process of reducing a 14-point halftime deficit, trailing by six with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
Joey Brungo was driving the lane, set to slice the McDowell lead to four.
But Trojans defender Jake Tarasovich reached in, tied up the ball, and McDowell was awarded the ball on the alternate possession.
McDowell responded with a quick hoop, followed by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and the Trojans were on their way to a 65-46 victory in a PIAA Class AAA first-round game at Gannon's Hammermill Center.
District 10 champion McDowell (23-3) will play Hampton on Wednesday in second-round play at a site and time to be determined.
Kiski Area, making its first PIAA tournament appearance in 10 years, finished the season at 17-7.
A junior reserve, Tarasovich didn't score during the game, but his big play had plenty to do with his team's victory.
“That's what Tarasovich does,” said Trojans coach Kevin O' Connor. “He brings energy, he's all over the place, we needed that, and he provided it to us.”
“We had an odd-man break, we had the opportunity to cut it, and the kid just made a good play,” said Cavaliers coach Joey Tutchstone. “They got a stop, then they got a basket, and it went from six to 11 quickly.”
Andrew Stromenger got the basket off the tie-up for McDowell, setting the stage for Michael Beck to bring the partisan Trojans crowd at Hammermill to its feet with a half-court shot to end the third quarter.
It was all McDowell after that as the Trojans put the finishing touches on a 14-1 run that put the game out of reach.
Beck led all scorers with 28 points, though he was blanked in the first quarter.
“My senior year, it's win or go home at this point,” Beck said. “I love my team so much, my school, my coach. Everyone's behind us. I'm just trying with the team to show up and get the job done.”
Kiski Area played well at times. The Cavaliers staged an 8-0 run that straddled the first and second quarters to take a 16-11 lead. But Beck finally hit his first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer with 5:01 left in the half to give McDowell a 19-18 lead as part of a 17-2 Trojans run.
“During those runs, we got some good looks,” Tutchstone said. “But theirs went down, and ours didn't. We knew coming in that they could shoot well.”
The Cavaliers started to gamble as the second half began, forcing six McDowell turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half, and cutting its deficit to single digits.
Mike Simmons, with a strong second half of the season, was held to 10 points, one field goal each quarter.
“We couldn't be happier with Matt Hansen tonight, he guarded 22 (Simmons) baseline to baseline,” O' Connor said. “We wanted to tire them out, and I think we got to them a little bit.”
Brungo also had 10 points for the Cavaliers.
Dalton Grafius had 11 rebounds to lead McDowell.
George Guido is a freelance writer.
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