By Drew Karpen
March 16, 2013 7:00 a.m. NEW CASTLE —
For the second year in a row the General McLane boy’s basketball team tasted defeat in the Class AAA PIAA quarterfinals. And for the second straight year it came at the hands of the Montour Spartans.
In a defensive battle, the Spartans (24-4) outlasted the Lancers 42-40 at New Castle High School on Friday night.
In a game so close, it was only fitting that it came down to foul shots.
“We just missed our foul shots,” General McLane head coach Andy Schulz said. “And they made theirs. That’s as easy as I can explain it. It wasn’t a lack of effort. I congratulate Montour. They are a heck of a team. We were just a foul shot away.”
The charity stripe wasn’t as giving for the Lancers, as they struggled to a 5-for-14 mark from the line.
Montour, however, seized the opportunity from the free-throw line. The Spartans were able to hang on to the lead in the fourth quarter after going 8-for-8 from the line in the final minute. Senior Kevin Scuilli took control, making six of them.
“It’s hard when you haven’t been in the flow and shot the ball well throughout the game,” said Montour head coach Adam Kaufman, a 2001 Edinboro University graduate who still holds the single-season (273) and career (936) records for assists. “With that being said he has been in a ton of games like this and he has made a ton of free throws. And out of a senior that has played as many games as him you kind of expect it.”
Scuilli had three points on one basket entering the final minute, and finished the game with nine points.
The Spartans led from start to finish after jumping out to an early 7-0 lead. After a much-needed timeout, the Lancers regrouped and finished the quarter on a 10-4 run to cut the deficit to 11-10. Jaymon Mason started to find his stroke, finishing with eight points in the opening quarter.
At the start of the second it was evident that it was going to be the Devin Wilson versus Mason show. Wilson quickly pushed the Montour lead back to five with two quick buckets to start the second.
After a basket by Quinn Thompson to cut it to within three, Montour’s Robert Julian drilled his only 3-pointer of the game.
The Lancers closed the quarter on a 4-0 run after a Thompson jumper and lay in from Brett Kulka to cut the lead to 20-16 at the half.
The Lancers were unsuccessful cutting into the Spartans lead in the third quarter, setting up a pressure filled fourth.Down to their final eight minutes, the Lancers knew the time was now to make a run. All season long they have been counting on Mason to come through with the big shot but an unlikely source of offense brought McLane back to within three. Junior Clay Smith, who didn’t attempt a shot until the fourth quarter, converted on a rainbow three. With the score 32-29, the Spartans and Lancers exchanged baskets on their next possessions.
With 4:14 left in the game, Mason grabbed the defensive board and sprinted up the court. Going full speed, everyone in the gym, including the Montour defense, expected him to drive to the basket. Mason did exactly the opposite, pulling up from beyond the arc.
Mason’s attempt to tie it was off the mark but he was fouled on the play.
Mason went to the line with a chance to tie the game, but was only able to convert one of three free throws.
Down by two, the Lancers had a chance to redeem themselves from the line, only to fail again. This time is was Thompson who walked to the line with a chance to tie. Thompson missed both attempts for the tie.
Up by two, the Spartans strategy was to play it safe. From the 2:32 mark to 39.9 seconds, Montour dribbled the ball around waiting for the Lancers to foul them.
“In my opinion, if we shot the basketball and gave it back, only bad things would happen,” Kaufman said. “Jaymon (Mason) would either drive to the hoop or get fouled. At that point we were willing to take our chances and hold the ball and see what happens. We have good free throw shooters and they have played in a lot of these pressure games over the last three years. I just didn’t want to give them an opportunity in a one possession game to foul someone out or get to the line.”
That good free throw shooting went on display when Scuilli converted on three sets of one-and-one’s.
McLane would continue to exchange 2-pointers with Montour’s free throws in the final 30 seconds.
After a pair of free throws from Julian made it a 42-37 game, Mason rushed down the court with 10 seconds left. Mason would hit a 3-pointer with a couple ticks left on the clock but it was too little too late. Montour tour was able to run out the clock to secure the win.
“I think we played well,” Schulz said. “We battled hard. It was two defensive teams and they really extended their effort tonight. We had nothing else to give.”
“They were very hard to guard. We knew that from last year. They are so deliberate. Devin is so good with the ball in his hands. They don’t take bad shots. We had to play the best defensive game all year and probably the best game all year to win. The credit goes to them but I told my kids it has been a thrill this year. No one expected us to do what we done. I am proud of them.”
Wilson led the Spartans with 13 points. Mason scored a game-high 22 points in the final game of his high school career. Like last year, he was the only Lancer to reach double figures against the Spartans.
McLane finished the year with a 22-6 record and won the District 10 AAA championship.
“Their efforts have been so fabulous,” Schulz said. “They have some big hearts. We leave here with our heads hung high and I congratulate our kids for a great season.”