Daily News spotlight athltes: McKeesport's Carlitto Acie, West Mifflin's Taylor Thomas
Claim to fame: Acie scored a career-high 28 points to lead McKeesport (15-7) past Bethel Park in a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game Saturday. The senior hit six 3-pointers in the upset and will lead the Tigers into their quarterfinal matchup against No. 3 Hampton on Saturday.
“He's very creative, and he's the leader of our team,” coach Corey Gadson said. “He's our captain and has been significant for us over the last couple of years. He's a slasher and is very athletic. He's a tough kid who wants the ball in crunch time. He willed us to the win (Saturday). He does a lot for us. That was probably his finest moment this year.”
Why were able to play so well against Bethel Park?
I think the bigger the stage and the more pressure there is for me to perform well, the better I play. I don't want to let my team down.
Did you have any special preparation for that game?
No. I made sure I did everything the same exact way. I'm really superstitious. I didn't want to do anything different that might cause me to have a bad game. I have to stick to the same routine.
What spurred the team's 15-point run early in the second half?
It was basically do or die. There were no second chances. We had to play really well really soon or we would be going home. Then it felt like every shot I put up was going to go in. I was taking whatever the defense gave me. I wasn't trying to force any shots up. I didn't want to over-do anything.
Did the team feel any sense of panic trailing in the second half?
No, none at all because we knew we could pull through.
How much did playing Bethel Park last week help?
It gave us a chance to see what kind of talent they had and see tendencies certain players would have.
What does your team have to do to beat Hampton?
I think we need to play well as a team and shoot well from the outside. We also have to have our inside game going on. We need to start inside and move out. But really, it all starts on the defensive end. I know they have two really good twins (Ryan and Collin Luther) that aren't bad at all. I think if we key in on them, we can slow them down. We just need to keep our intensity up and make sure we are prepared.
— Robert Stinner
School: West Mifflin
Claim to fame: Thomas scored 23 points to lead the Titans to a 61-41 victory over Kittanning in a Class AAA preliminary-round game at Highlands on Saturday.
She showed signs of dominance earlier this season when she scored 35 in a 63-19 win over Brownsville on Dec. 13 and had 27 in a 65-19 win over Monessen on Dec. 7.
“When she plays poised like that, she's pretty hard to stop,” coach Rob Yeschenko said. “She played an excellent game Saturday. When she goes, we go.”
How important was it to come out and play strong to open the playoffs?
I just wanted to have a big game, especially after we ended the season on a losing streak.
What were the team's goals heading into the playoffs?
We talked at practice and coach said we may only win one time, but it's that one time we win that it matters. We just have to work as a team, get back on defense and pick each other up.
What are you going to work on this offseason to come back better next year?
Mostly, in the beginning of the year we need to get everyone to build a good foundation. We lost a few players and had some freshmen come up this year. We have to trust each other and have each other's backs.
What is the best part of your game?
I would say my inside game and sometimes my jumper. I got the ball dished to me late in the first half of the Kittanning game, and I shot and made a 3-(pointer).
— Brian Graham