Kennedy Catholic in western semis
Despite a 50-45 win, the coach was bothered by his team's lack of offensive rebounding on free throws.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NEW CASTLE. Pa. -- The best 12-loss high school basketball team in Pennsylvania threw a real scare into the defending Class A state runners-up.
After falling behind 10-2 in the first quarter, Duquesne rallied to outscore Kennedy Catholic 15-6 to take a one-point lead halfway through the second quarter of Tuesday's Western Pennsylvania quarterfinal playoff game at New Castle High.
The game seesawed between the unheralded Dukes (18-12) and Eagles until halfway through the fourth quarter when Pat Mastrian's layup put the Eagles ahead for good, 38-37 en route to a 50-45 victory.
After Mastrian's basket, Chris Pasci scored from underneath and tacked on a free throw. With several key players already in foul trouble, the Dukes were unable to keep pace with the Eagles down the stretch.
Friday, Kennedy Catholic (22-6) will play Elk County Catholic in a Western semifinal game at a site to be announced. The Eagles are one of eight Class A teams still alive and need two more wins to earn a trip to Hershey.
"Mainly it was the offensive rebounding on free throws that hurt us," Loomis said.
Credit the Dukes for not quitting after giving up 10 straight points in the first quarter. The Eagles' David Jackson scored three baskets during that stretch while Eric Rodemoyer and Kyle Randall had one each.
Ahead 12-4 after one quarter, the Eagles appeared to be in for an easy night.
It was anything but, thanks to a powerful performance by Duquesne's Elijah Fields.
Tied at halftime
A Fields free throw opened the second quarter as the Dukes outscored the Eagles, 16-8, for a tie game at halftime.
Duquesne spread the shots around as Ian Maletta, Malik Washington, Sty Washington, Rocky Washington and Layton Dunn scored in that quarter.
Sniffing an upset brewing in the third quarter, the Dukes moved ahead 32-29 after a Fields basket late in the frame. But moments later, the Dukes were hurting as Fields and Dorian Stewart picked up their third personal fouls while Malik Washington took his fourth.
What kept the Dukes in the game was the Eagles' struggles at the free throw line. Kennedy Catholic missed 11 attempts in the second half.
The Dukes were hardly better, missing 10 in the final two quarters.
"This time of year, it doesn't matter how you play as long as you win," Loomis said. "We're usually a pretty good free-throw shooting team, but we sure weren't there at the end."
Easy shots limited
Although Fields finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, Loomis thought the Eagles defended him fairly well.
"Fields got some open looks because of the sets they ran, but he didn't get a lot of easy shots," Loomis said.
Jackson, who will play for Penn State next year, led the Eagles with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Mastrian scored 14 points while Pacsi had 11.
Loomis said he's looking forward to the rematch with Elk County Catholic and he's not concerned with his squad's woes holding leads of late.
"They'll shoot themselves out of a lead, too," Loomis said of Elk. "They're a three-point shooting team. I've seen them play weak teams and blow leads by keep shooting threes."