On the line
The Connellsville boys basketball team used a strong start and some sharp free-throw shooting to post its first Section 1-AAAA win of the season, defeating visiting Penn-Trafford, 75-67.
"It feels good," coach Dan Bosnic said. "The kids have worked hard all season. We put it together tonight and came out with a victory. We're happy to have this one. I thought the kids did a good job on defense, we came out with intensity, and we got the job done."
John Leonard led the Falcons' attack, sinking 15 of 16 foul shots on his way to a game-high 28 points. Chris Williams scored 16 points, and Mason Leos added 14. Connellsville (2-5, 1-2) hit 33 of its 39 attempted free throws.
The Warriors led, 13-7, early in the first quarter, but the Falcons went on an 11-point run to take the lead, anchored by a couple of nice buckets from Leos. By the midpoint of the second quarter, Connellsville's lead was in double figures, despite five first-half 3-pointers by Penn-Trafford (3-4, 2-2). Mike Brown tossed in two from the perimeter as he tallied a team-high 27 points, and Matt Hyland scored eight points in the opening half. But Williams and Leonard were perfect at the line to help the Falcons to a 41-30 lead at the break.
The Warriors made some defensive adjustments to start the second half, hoping to get themselves back in the game.
"We kind of made it a one-two-two (defense) a little bit," Penn-Trafford coach Ryan Yarosik said. "We felt like, if we could get (Connellsville) out of rhythm a little bit, we could slowly climb our way back."
The strategy worked, as Brown keyed an 11-3 stretch late in the third quarter to pull the Warriors within a basket, 51-49. Another big quarter from Brown helped Penn-Trafford keep it close through most of the fourth quarter, but the Falcons -- and Leonard -- came up with buckets at crucial times. Connellsville's efforts were aided by Penn-Trafford's foul trouble.
The Warriors trailed, 66-65, with a minute and a half to play when Luke Graham was flagged for his fifth foul, negating a basket from Brown that would have given his team the lead. Instead, Leonard drove the lane for a basket and drew a foul as well. He pulled off the 3-point play to open up a 69-65 cushion for Connellsville, and the Falcons held on for the win.
"I've got to give that team some credit; they played real hard," Yarosik said. "They played harder than us. They wanted it more than us, start to finish. I've got to give our kids credit, too. We fought back; we just couldn't get over that hump."