By Pete Chiodo
March 9, 2013 7:00 a.m. PITTSBURGH —
You’ll rarely see in Crawford County a basketball team with the same kind of hops possessed by WPIAL runner-up Clairton.
Cochranton, Clairton’s opponent for the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs, may have experienced a stretch or two where the Bears’ ability seemed overwhelming. Overall, however, the Cardinals put up an admirable fight while falling 76-48 Friday night at Plum High School in Pittsburgh.
“If I just take out that little window where we were starting to question if we belong on this court,” said Cochranton head coach Scott McCurdy, “then we saw nothing but heart and soul yet again from this team. So I am really proud of these guys here at the end.”
Cochranton ends it season with a record of 15-10 and a runner-up finish in District 10.
“To make it his far is a big deal,” said McCurdy. “When you get to this level, every team is good. We see what caliber we need to be to get this far and win. And that is good for our strong junior and sophomore classes coming back next year.”
Clairton (17-7) now moves on to Tuesday’s second round to face Smethport. Smethport beat Bishop Guilfoyle 62-56 last night.
Last night the Bears led from start to finish. They led 16-6 after the first period, 35-20 at the half and then began pulling away in the third, which ended in a 58-29 Clairton lead. Cochranton executed its defensive gameplan of making Clairton shoot from the perimeter, but Clairton made its shots.
“We tried to keep them outside,” said Cardinals junior Logan Herzberger. “We practiced our zone. We tried to contest those outside shots. But we didn’t expect them to shoot the way they did.
“They had a high percentage from the outside.”
Clairton knocked down nine 3-pointers in the game. Titus Howard had three treys and scored 17 points. Tyler Boyd added three triples and scored 15 points. Bryon Clifford, Armonni Ford and Rob Boatwright had one each.
Clifford ended up leading the Bears with 25 points.
“When we are shooting, we are tough to beat,” said Clairton head coach Matt Geletko. “We’re athletic. We pose a lot of matchup problems for teams. If our outside shots are falling, we can be pretty tough.”
In the third quarter, Clairton showed how dangerous they are inside as well.
Howard jammed in back-to-back dunks for the Bears. The second dunk came from an assist banked off the glass by Clifford. Then, to end the third period, Santeaun Simms took off from just inside the foul line and threw down a one-handed dunk to fire up the Clairton fans.
“(Simms) tries those all the time in practice,” said Geletko. “A lot of the times he misses them. During the regular season, we probably led the WPIAL in missed dunks. I’m serious.
“These guys can get very high above the rim and some times it just doesn’t go down.”
Cochranton also made nine 3-pointers in the game, but it was not enough to keep up with the Bears. Leading Cochranton with four treys was Herzberger, who also scored a team-high 18 points.
“No matter what they threw at (Herzberger) he was turning that corner and trying to make something happen for us,” said McCurdy.
Garrett Adams followed with 13 points. He had three treys. Nathan Wigton added nine points, all in the fourth quarter.