Mt. Lebo powers past McKeesport in quarters
McKeesport guard Ty-Meer Brown describes his team's defense as physical, but Mt. Lebanon's Evan Pierce calls it something else.
"They were playing a little dirty at times," said Pierce, who scored a game-high 18 points in Mt. Lebanon's 56-44 quarterfinal victory Saturday in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. Pierce was on the receiving end of an intentional foul that sent him crashing to the floor behind the basket.
"We had to keep our composure," Pierce said.
From the opening tip, McKeesport was determined to test top-seeded Mt. Lebanon's toughness — something other teams have tried. Pierce already was wearing a bandage above his left eye from a collision in a first-round game against Shaler on Wednesday.
"McKeesport is known for playing tough, physical basketball," Brown said. "We don't play dirty ball. We just play physical."
That physical approach became McKeesport's undoing.
Mt. Lebanon began the third quarter with a 15-1 run, helped by a technical foul called against McKeesport's Branden Jackson and an intentional foul against teammate Kendall Hunter. Mt. Lebanon's 23-20 halftime lead was suddenly approaching 20, and three McKeesport starters were in foul trouble before the fourth quarter began.
"Every game we play, we try to be physical with the other team," said Brown, who led McKeesport with 13 points but fouled out with 3:54 left. "Sometimes, we play too physical, and the refs start getting involved, and things start going the other team's way."
This was the second consecutive season that Mt. Lebanon eliminated McKeesport in the quarterfinals.
"They were dirty last year, too," Pierce said. "They're a team that's going to come after you on defense really hard and make sure you get nothing easy."
McKeesport coach Corey Gadson dismissed the notion his team played dirty.
"We're not going to just let you do whatever you want to do," he said.
Mt. Lebanon (23-1) will play Wednesday against No. 12 seed Upper St. Clair in a Class AAAA semifinal. No. 2 seed North Allegheny will play No. 6 Gateway in the other semifinal. Sites and times haven't been announced.
McKeesport (15-7) will qualify for the PIAA playoffs if Mt. Lebanon wins the WPIAL title. Five Class AAAA teams qualify for the PIAA playoffs — the four semifinalists and the team that lost to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals.
"We were right where we wanted to be, and then, the momentum just went the other way," Gadson said. "We get an intentional foul, then we get a technical, then we miss a layup.
"Sometimes, you don't like to give the other team credit, but that's a solid team. There's a reason they're nationally ranked."
McKeesport was outscored, 19-9, in the third quarter, as Mt. Lebanon exploited its height advantage with 6-foot-8 seniors Deion Turman and Grant Latus. McKeesport started only one player taller than 6-2.
"I thought we didn't use that to our advantage at all (in the first half)," Mt. Lebanon coach Joe David said
Mt. Lebanon junior Paul Lang scored eight of his 16 points during the third quarter, when the Blue Devils began their game-winning run. Lang, a 6-5 forward, said he was motivated by the game's style.
"Right from the start, they were being so physical with us," Lang said, "so we knew it was going to be a tough game. We had to get used to it."