Seton-La Salle boys fall in state title game
HERSHEY — Down two with only a few seconds left, Seton-La Salle's Levi Masua lofted a 3-pointer to win the state championship.
But his team's perfect ending bounced away at the buzzer.
“I can't set a better stage,” Masua said after Saturday's 61-59 loss to Constitution in the PIAA Class AA final at Giant Center. “Everything was perfect. It's just the last shot didn't fall.”
A minute earlier, Masua had hit from the same spot to force a 59-59 tie when Seton rallied from nine down. But his would-be winner from the right side hit the rim a little long.
“I thought that shot was going in,” Seton-La Salle coach Mark Walsh said. “It looked so good and so straight. He had a great look. ... If it goes you're the state champs and if it doesn't, you came within one possession of the state championship.”
And Walsh was fine with that scenario. If Seton-La Salle could replay the final 8.3 seconds, starting when Constitution's Kimar Williams missed a free throw, the third-year coach would encourage Masua to shoot another 3. The Rebels had no timeouts, were in foul trouble and weren't playing for overtime. And they knew playmaking point guard Dale Clancy would be double- or triple-teamed.
“I'll take Levi Masua,” said Walsh of the 6-foot-6 senior born in Sudan. “He's probably put thousands of those shots up in the gym by himself over the last two and a half years. If you can give him that shot ... I'm taking it.”
With a white jersey stained red from his bloody lip, Masua had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Seton-La Salle (29-2), which was trying to sweep the Class AA titles this weekend. The girls team won Friday over Neumann-Goretti.
Clancy had 16 points and four fouls, and Ryan Norkus had 12 points. Malik White, who had 11 rebounds, fouled out with 8 seconds left.
“I said to myself, if it got down to the end ... and we're down by two, were going to go for a 3,” Walsh said.
District 12's Constitution (28-5), a Philadelphia public school, was the PIAA Class A champion in 2012. WPIAL champion Seton-La Salle (29-2) hadn't reached the state finals since winning the Class AAA title in 1988.
“We proved ourselves,” Masua said. “We can play with the best of them.”
Ahmad Gilbert, a 6-6 junior with Division I offers, led Constitution with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Williams had 14 points.
Tied 43-43, Constitution started the fourth with an 11-2 run as Seton went more than four minutes without a basket. A 3-pointer by Gilbert gave the Generals a 54-45 lead with 5:04 left. The nine-point lead was the game's largest, but Seton-La Salle rallied with fouls.
The Rebels targeted senior Raheem Liggins, a 6-5 forward who made just 1 of 5 from the line. In the final four minutes, Constitution made just 3 of 8 foul shots and twice missed the first shot of a one-and-one situation. The lead dwindled until Masua's tying 3 with 1:03 left.
With 34 seconds left, Constitution's Akeem King made one of two free throws to lead 60-59. When a tough driving layup by Clancy missed with 12.4 seconds left, Williams made the first of two free throws to lead 61-59.
Seton rebounded Williams' miss with 8.3 seconds left, and Clancy found Masua rather alone at the arc near the Rebels bench.
“As a kid growing up in the backyard with your little brothers, you're always (imagining) buzzer beaters,” Masua said. “That's something I always wanted to do. I'm glad I got to experience it on such a big stage. It's unfortunate that I couldn't make it.”