Seton-La Salle boys finish as Class AA state runner-up
It was a longer-than-anticipated ride home for the Seton-La Salle boys' basketball team.
The Rebels were edged by Constitution, 61-59, on Saturday in the PIAA Class AA boys' championship game at Giant Center in Hershey.
“The state championship game is definitely one of the best basketball games we have ever been a part of,” Mark Walsh, Seton-La Salle's third-year head coach, said. “To anyone in that gym that day, they saw two teams compete to the final buzzer.
“We could not be more proud of our team. Most people only dream of the season we had. Twenty years from now these kids will understand what they did. I said last week we love these guys and wish we could coach them forever.”
Seton-La Salle (29-2), the 2014 WPIAL champion, was seeking its second state title in school history. The Rebels won the PIAA Class AAA crown in 1988.
The 29 wins in 2013-14 are the most in one season by a Seton-La Salle boys' basketball team.
“We were told this was the most wins in a season by a Seton-La Salle boys' team,” Walsh said. “We are going to celebrate.”
Constitution (28-5), from District 12, won its second PIAA crown in three years. The Generals were the PIAA Class A champions in 2012, defeating WPIAL entry Lincoln Park in the title game.
“Hats off to Seton-La Salle,” said Robert Moore, Constitution's head coach. “They played a tremendous game. They were able to control the pace of the game.”
Levi Masua, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who was born in Sudan, led Seton-La Salle with 19 points — including 11 in the second half — and 11 rebounds.
Masua's potential game-winning 3-pointer at the game's final buzzer bounced off the back of the rim.
“We said on the bench we were ok going for the win,” Walsh said. “Levi took a shot from near the exact spot he made one a minute before, and while the ball was in the air it looked good. It was the most exciting feeling a staff could ever ask for. We are so proud of our team.”
Senior point guard Dale Clancy finished with 16 points and three assists for the Rebels. Junior forward Ryan Norkus added 12 points.
Ahmad Gilbert, a 6-6 senior forward with offers from Drexel, Hofstra and Rhode Island, led Constitution with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Gilbert was the most valuable player of the Philadelphia Public League this season.
Junior guard Kimar Williams also netted 14 points and five assists, as eight players scored for the Generals.
“They were so big and so athletic,” Walsh said. “During an interview on Friday, I said I felt like Norman Dale from ‘Hoosiers' in his state title game going up against a big, athletic team.
“They played a national schedule and played versus the No. 1 team in the nation. We watched Hoosiers on the way to Hershey on the team bus, and our staff commented that if we had a shot to win it, we were talking about what play to run.”
Constitution, which averaged 84 ppg this season, held a 10-9 first-quarter lead, and a 27-24 halftime edge. The score was tied at 43-43 at the end of the third period.
There were eight ties in the contest.
Seton-La Salle's biggest lead was five points, at 34-29 early in the third quarter. The Generals built up a nine-point cushion, at 54-45, thanks to an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter.
The Rebels rallied to tie it at 59-59 with 1:03 left, behind Masua, Norkus and Clancy on the offensive end. Masua hit a long 3-pointer at the 1:03 mark.
Seton-La Salle sank 15 of 23 free throws in the game; Constitution converted 15 of 24 charity attempts.
In the final four minutes, the Generals made just three of eight foul shots and twice missed the front end of a one-and-one situation.
Seton-La Salle hit on four of 12 shots from beyond the arc; Constitution made two of 10 triples.
Malik White, a senior center, pulled down 11 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Each team was credited with 38 rebounds.
Walsh, a 1986 Seton-La Salle graduate, is 65-14 overall in three years as the Rebels' head coach. The Rebels were 6-14 and 4-18 in the two years before Walsh took over.
Constitution is in its eighth year of existence as a Philadelphia public school.
“There was a special moment that I will never forget,” Walsh said. “After we received our medals and Constitution received their medals, they did something I had never seen before at a championship event. Their players and staff walked to the other end of the court and hugged and congratulated our staff and our players.
“For a team from Philadelphia and a team from Pittsburgh to do that is something special.”
Trib Total Media contributed to this story. Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.