The Tigers tied with Grove City, which Sharon will play on Tuesday.
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -- For the Slippery Rock High basketball team, its matchup with Sharon on Friday meant absolutely nothing in terms of a league championship or taking the next step to the playoffs.
However, in terms of a possible Mercer County Athletic Conference championship and the top seed in the upcoming District 10-AAA playoffs, the game meant everything to the Tigers.
Very much alive: After 32 minutes of hard-fought basketball, the Tigers are still very much alive in the District 10 and MCAC pictures as they held off the Rockets 59-57.
With the win, the Tigers (14-9, 5-1) tied with Grove City. The Eagles finished their regular season with a 61-30 pounding of Hickory. The two teams will now square off against each other Tuesday at Westminster College. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.
"I am not a very good Xs and Os coach and I have been out of the game for 10 years, but one thing that hasn't changed is playing with mental toughness," said Sharon coach Jim Hoy. "I think my staff and I are great at that and tonight, our kids won on mental toughness."
Known for living by the 3-point shot, the Tigers had problems hitting early as they only made two of 12 in the first half. However, down the stretch, it was Duston Golub, Corey Cheza and Julian Betko hitting from long range that enabled the Tigers to pull out the win.
How it works: "Eventually they are going to fall and they are going to break your back," said Hoy of the long-range shots. "But we are going to have nights when we will miss them. That is when we tell the kids they can nail that shot, but we can play defense. We can play great defense and tonight we did."
Sharon led by as many as eight, while the Rockets (11-12, 2-4) held a seven-point lead midway through the third period. However, neither team could pull away, setting up the final frantic minutes of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the game had seven lead changes and was tied four times until the Tigers scored the final three points, two by Betko and one by Golub, all from the charity stripe.
While Cheza, Golub and Betko were handling most of the scoring chores for the Tigers, it was Brett Codispot and Zack Sarver who kept the Rockets within striking distance down the stretch.
Codispot scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the final period, while Sarver nailed three treys in the second half and finished with 15.
Praise: "Brett played very well, but I can't say enough about the effort of Luke McCaffrey, Rich Lee, Andrew Raisley, Scott Rice, Braden Campbell and Zack Sarver on defense," said Slippery Rock coach Chris Burtch. "With all of the things these kids have been through, it would have been nice to have something nice happen for them. Just one time. That is all we were asking for."
Following the game, Hoy had a lot of good things to say about Burtch and the Rockets.
"You can't say enough about him [Burtch]," said Hoy. "The way those kids pulled together, played together and believed in each other was just unbelievable in a game that didn't even matter."