By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HERSHEY, Pa. -- No room to run. No open space to find. Barely any time to even breathe.
There was little mercy on the Union High basketball team in its quest to finish an improbable season by winning the school's first state championship.
One year after preventing Kennedy Catholic from winning five straight state titles, which would have made Pennsylvania history, Scotland School played the spoiler role yet again.
The Cadets marched into Hershey and defended their state title Friday with an 80-69 victory over Union in the PIAA Class A championship game at GIANT Center.
Union was left shaking its head after succumbing to Scotland School's quickness and overall athleticism, which helped the Cadets shoot 55 percent from the field in maintaining the lead for all but the game's opening minutes.
"I didn't think they could shoot it like that," Union coach Mark Stanley said. "I knew they had the capability, from a couple of the films I watched, but I didn't think it would be like that.
"I knew that if they were going to hit like that all night, we were going to be in trouble."
In the Western final against Kennedy Catholic, the Scotties rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to stun the Golden Eagles, 40-39.
Friday against Scotland School, that deficit was 12 points (39-27).
No big deal, right?
"We definitely thought we could come out and make another run at it and see what we could do," said Union junior Craig Hannon. "But it just didn't happen that way.
"This was a better team than Kennedy, and they do a lot of good things," he added. "It was tough to come back from that."
Yet, late in the third quarter, Union cut its deficit to eight points (54-46) before Scotland School reeled off eight straight to build a 62-46 lead before the fourth began.
"That last 30 or 40 seconds, they got a couple of buckets that just put it out of reach going into the fourth quarter," Stanley said.
The Cadets maintained a comfortable lead throughout the fourth quarter to win their fourth state title since 1994.
Too much to slice
"There's no 15-point shot, so we just wanted to cut into it, cut into it," Hannon said. "But we could never get within five or four to give ourselves a chance."
Playing in his final game, senior Jeff Nero scored a team-high 25 points for the Scotties (20-11), while Hannon added 19 -- 14 of which came in the first half. Junior Mike Mukaabya also had 12 points and eight rebounds.
"I wanted to go out on top in my last game," Nero said. "But they were just a better team, too quick for us.
"Usually the teams we play are quick but not that great of shooters," he added. "They were hitting everything."
From everywhere. Ten players scored for the Cadets.
"They all can score and they all look to score," Scotland School coach Gerald Wilson said. "And they don't get upset when someone scores more points than the other person."
Scotland School (25-7), which won the title despite losing four starters from last season's team, was led by Jason Peterson (17 points), Malik Parker (15) and Lamar Anthony (14).
"This loss, yeah it hurts, but if it's the worst thing that's going to happen to us in our lives," Union junior Bob Bondi said, "then we're going to live good lives."