Late free throws lift Penn-Trafford boys basketball team

| Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, 10:09 p.m.

Brendan O'Toole's face lit up after a free throw bounced around the iron and fell in.

Whether it was free throws or behind-the-back bounce passes to teammates, the 6-foot-3 Penn-Trafford senior forward owned the second half Friday night.

While his face displayed emotion, O'Toole mostly shrugged it off.

“I guess you could say that,” O'Toole said. “I was happy it went in. I was very thankful I was playing that well. I was happy our team was getting back into the game.”

During the final 3 minutes, 26 seconds of the Warriors' 74-72 Section 1-AAAA win, O'Toole was particularly deadly. He scored nine of Penn-Trafford's last 13 points to help the Warriors rally from a 10-point deficit.

“It's poetry in motion,” said Warriors sophomore guard Sean Kelly, who caught and scored on O'Toole's creative pass. “He's so capable. He played like a man tonight. He played like a maniac.”

Norwin pulled ahead 72-61 with 3:26 remaining on a layup by Anthony Dellefemine. The Knights' offense was potent throughout, routinely creating easy opportunities inside.

Gage McCracken (20 points), Nicholas Vieceli (19) and Cam Auld (13) finished in double figures for Norwin (14-6, 9-3).

“We were a darn good team for 29.5 minutes tonight and didn't finish the game,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “It was a gut-wrenching loss tonight.”

After a late timeout, P-T coach Jim Rocco knew the Warriors needed to make a switch. The change had to come on defense.

“We had to go back to pressure,” Rocco said. “We got away from it, to the credit of Norwin. They did a tremendous job with ball screens, and that opened the middle of floor for them.”

The turnovers came, and points followed quickly. Penn-Trafford closed the game on a 13-2 run.

On the final possession, Kelly caught a pass in the far corner and attacked the rim. He drew a blocking foul and sank both free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

“They came with the trap, and I tried to kick it out to someone in the corner,” said Kelly, who finished with 19 points. “He fouled me, and luckily I made foul shots.”

The lead changed hands seven times in the first quarter, and Norwin led 36-34 at halftime.

The Knights gained separation at the start of the fourth quarter and stretched the lead to 57-50 with a layup by Auld.

“The big difference in our team is getting the ball to the rim,” Washowich said. “When we get the ball to the rim, we are a pretty good team.”

Sean Stinelli also finished in double figures for the Warriors (15-4, 10-2).

Penn-Trafford has won five straight and nine of its past 10.

The Knights had a five-game winning streak halted.

Despite the momentum, Rocco would not want the playoffs to start tomorrow.

“No, no we're not ready,” Rocco said. “We need the games to play against great opponents. We're going to have three games against playoff teams.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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