Bethel Park holds off Mt. Lebanon
Ben O’Connor discovered a simple solution to eliminate turnovers. The Bethel Park boys’ basketball coach encouraged his players to shoot rather than dribble against Mt. Lebanon.
“They all have the green light,” O’Connor said. “Even if they could go 0-for-10, I tell them to keep shooting. That’s our forte. Other than Joey (Mascaro) and Anthony (Bomar), we are not going to put the ball on the floor. If you shoot, then you don’t turn the ball over.”
By connecting on five, 3-pointers in the first half, the Hawks constructed a big enough cushion to hold off Mt. Lebanon and seal a 52-47 victory with their fourth-quarter free throw shooting.
BP converted 10 of 14 attempts in the final frame. The Hawks nailed their first six shots from the charity stripe but lapsed, missing the front end of three bonus-shot opportunities for a 2-for-6 showing before R.J. Pfeuffer knocked down two critical free throws with 7.5 seconds to play. Mascaro then stole an inbounds pass to ice the victory.
“It was a quality victory,” said O’Connor. “I’m really proud of these guys. They are tough, gritty kids. I’m proud of their overall composure.”
Pfeuffer and Josh Krafczynski exhibited coolness as they knocked down the shots from long range. Pfeuffer ended the first frame with a trey that tied the contest, 14-14, and started the second stanza with a triple that vaulted BP into a lead it would never relinquish, 17-14. Krafczynski buried three shots from the beyond the arc as the Hawks cruised into the locker room with a 32-23 advantage.
“There were no magical words,” O’Connor said. “I just told them to catch the ball, be strong and make foul shots.”
The Hawks kept the ball in Mascaro’s and Bomar’s hands and spread the floor against Lebo because it held an edge inside with twin towers Patrick Ehland and Matthew Collins.
“We wanted to use our athleticism and quickness,” explained O’Connor. “Lebo is so big and long in the paint. They clogged it up inside.
“Jump, stop and kick,” added O’Connor. That was his advice to his players.
The strategy worked until Lebo adjusted and BP went cold. Though the Hawks constructed a 42-30 lead, they failed to make another field goal after Dan Breit’s bucket with 1:25 left in the third quarter. Though the Blue Devils closed to within 42-40 with 4:45 to play, and within 50-47 on Jonny David’s basket with 35.9 to play, BP won the game at the line.
Mascaro and Bomar led the Hawks with 12 and 11 tallies while Pfeuffer and Krafczynski both pitched in nine markers. David and Collins led Lebo with 15 and 10 markers.
“We knocked down some key free throws there,” O’Connor said. “That was all guts and character. This is an amazing bunch. These kids would run through a wall if you asked them to.”
With the victory, that may not be necessary for BP climbed back into the hunt for the section banner. The Hawks are 14-4 overall and 9-3 in the division and trail Upper St. Clair, which improved to 10-2 with a 49-42 win at Peters Township. BP has Trinity and Baldwin back-to-back to close out the section campaign. The Panthers, which are 14-5 overall, host Moon (Feb. 4), and they visit Lebo on Feb. 7.
“We have to take care of our own business,” O’Connor said. “But I think this will come down to (Feb. 7),” he predicted of the section race.
Upper St. Clair, which is 14-5 overall, host Moon (Feb. 4), and the Panthers visit Lebo on Feb. 7.
USC maintained its slim lead over Bethel Park when the Panthers edged Peters Township, 49-42. Double-digit showing from J.J. Conn (19), Conor Gallagher (11) and Nick Staley (11) paced the Panthers. J.C. Brush was tops for the Indians with 16 tallies.
While Lebo slipped to 7-4 in the division and 9-10 overall and Peters Township dropped to 6-6 in the section and 9-10 overall, too, Canon-McMillan fell to 6-5 and 10-8 overall.
Despite 16-point performances from Sam Bohn and Britton Beachy, the Big Macs dropped a 68-55 decision at Moon.