Any hopes that Cathedral Prep would cool off after three huge wins against Kennedy Catholic, McDowell and Erie were put to rest in the first period.
And any hopes the home crowd had of the Bulldogs making a comeback were put to rest at halftime.
Instead, the MASH faithful saw Cathedral Prep out score Meadville 24-4 in the first period and 24-12 in the second to take a 48-16 halftime lead and roll from there to a 73-55 statement win in the second of three meetings between the two squads. The next one will be in two weeks for the District 10 title.
“Another slow start for sure,” said Meadville head coach Mark McElhinny. “We have to get off to a better start (in the playoff game). And we have to make it a lower scoring game, obviously.”The start was about as bad as it could get.
The Bulldogs came out and played some tough defense early. As a result, Lemaro Husband scored 40 seconds into the game and Meadville led 2-0. It was the only lead the home squad would get on the House of Thrills court.
Cathedral Prep answered when Liam Galla drilled a 3-pointer about one minute later. Not only was it the go-ahead basket, but it seemed to wake up the Ramblers in a huge way. Counting Galls’ trey, Prep went on a 19-0 run to grab a 19-2 lead. Meadville finally broke that run with an other Husband layup, but then gave up a 5-0 run to close the period. Quentin Santillan hit two three pointers and had eight points for the period.
“(Prep’s) defense is tremendous,” asid McElhinny. “Their pressure on the ball defense, their help defense ... they box out well. They do everything rightwith a lot of speed and athleticism. So its hard to get good shots. And when the shots aren’t falling, we start to pressure ourselves and dig a deeper hole.”
The deficit just grew in the second.
The Bulldogs were looking to get something going. But after making it a 36-25 game on a 3-pointer and layup by Davyon Butler, the offense went cold for just one more 3 and a pair of free throws in the final 3:09 of the half.
That lull was just what Prep ordered. The Ramblers went on to outscore Meadville 12-5 in that stretch to open up a 32-point halftime advantage. Key for Prep was Alfonso Pickens, who hit a long-range 3, drovefor a short jumper in the paint and added a pair of free throws in the final minute of the half. Santillan also hit two more treys.
The second half was more of a game.
Still, with such a big hill to climb, the Bulldogs just never had a chance to get back in it. The shots were finally falling, but Cathedral Prep slowed the tempo making any miraculous come back an impossibility. Not even a 39-25 MASH advantage in the second half could turn the tables on the rival Ramblers. Even a standout performace from Charlie Waid, Reese Pero, Savior Hughes, Alex McEhinny and Matt Panchura, who outscored Prep 25-10 in the fourth period, the game was just too far out of reach.
“The young guys got in and moved the ball well,” said coach McElhinny. “They did some real good things against (Prep’s) second team. But our first team has to be ready to go against their first team. Our guys understand that we have to be a lot sharper in a couple weeks.”
Santillan finished with a game-high 16 points to pace Prep. Gall added 12 and Pickens scored 10.
Sam Burchard tallied 12 points for Meadville, while Waid dropped in 11. Butler finished with nine.
“Anything can happen in the playoffs when you have an athletic and talented team,” said McElhinny. “And hopefully we can get some chemistry back before then.
“We got a couple good games coming up. Franklin (today), Erie on Tuesday and then a week off to prepare for (the District 10 championship game).