By Lisa Byers
March 2, 2013 7:00 a.m. SLIPPERY ROCK —
All season long the Cochranton boys basketball worked and prepared to put itself in a position to compete for a District 10 Class A title.
And that hard work wound up paying off with the Cardinals earning a spot in Friday’s District 10 championship game with perennial powerhouse Kennedy Catholic.
Nothing, however, throughout the course of the season, or many seasons before for that matter, could have prepared the Cardinals for the circumstances they were dealt last night at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
Cochranton finished the first quarter of play tied at 10-10 and trailed by just three (13-10) with 6:53 to play in the second quarter when star guard Nick Dickson drove the hoop, put up a tough shot as he was fouled and then fell to the ground in a heap, grabbing hold of his left knee.
Dickson had to be carried off the court and was later seen being transported by a wheelchair to the locker room. He never returned.
Kennedy — with the Cochranton players’ heads hung low — responded with a 25-10 run to close the half up 38-20. The Golden Eagles went on to capture their 22nd District 10 title with a 58-37 win over the Cardinals.
“I lost sleep every night this week thinking about every scenario that could happen out on that court,” Cochranton interim head coach Scott McCurdy said, “whether it was foul trouble or clock situations. Never thought of that one that’s for sure.”
The Cardinals (16-9) advance to the state tournament despite the loss and will face WPIAL runner-up Clairton in the opening round on Friday at a site and time yet to be determined. And Cochranton will likely do so, again, without its leading scorer. An effort like the Cards put forth in the second half against the Golden Eagles (17-6) will go a long ways.
“It’s hard. It’s hard to focus on the game and not think about, ‘Wow. He’s the best shooter, ball guard, shooting guard … the best guard we have,” Cochranton junior guard Logan Herzberger said, “‘and he’s out of the game.
“My thought was to just get everyone fired up and try to forget about it and stay in the game.”
The Cardinals did put up a valiant effort in the final 16 minutes. In fact, Cochranton was outscored by just three in the second half. The Cards forced 12 turnovers in the half — two via offensive fouls which senior Nate Roche came off the bench to draw.
Herzberger made some big shots in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Andrew Saunier hurried down court and blocked what should have been an easy Kennedy layup. It was all out heart and soul for the Cardinals.
“Everyone came out and stepped up,” Roche said. “We knew we had to just keep playing and try to keep our spirits high.”
“We’re proud of this team no matter what,” McCurdy added. “They earned a lot of respect out there. Big crowd. They kept fighting to the end.”
There was just simply no answer for the 28-point outburst the Golden Eagles came up with in the second quarter.
Arlen Brewer scored 11 of those points with the help of three 3-pointers. Jeff Thompkins added nine.
“I thought Cochranton did a great job,” Kennedy Catholic coach Rick Mancino said. “I thought their coach for coming in late has done an excellent job with them and they are going to be good again next year.
“But I thought our guys started being more patient on offense. Arlen came on the floor and hit some big shots. We’ve had some trouble getting that spark. It was nice to see that (last night).”
The extent of Dickson’s injury was unknown at the game’s conclusion. He was not with the team. Dickson had two points and two rebounds and was about to head to the foul line for two shots before the injury.
Nate Wigton came in and took the shots for Dickson and made the first one to pull the Cardinals, who led 8-2 in the first quarter, to within two (13-11). Kennedy answered with a 10-0 run. Cochranton finally got on the board with 4:30 to play in the half on a basket by Garrett Adams, but that 10 point deficit (23-13) is as close as the Cards would get.
Herzberger led the Cardinals with 12 points. Adams added nine markers.
Brewer led all scorers with 14 for the Eagles. Thompkins chipped in with 13.