CANONSBURG – Only in Josh Wise’s world does a 16-point game translate into a sleepless night.
Despite helping the Wash High boys basketball team to a 24-point win over Saltsburg in the first round of the EQT Energy Classic Friday night, Wise wasn’t happy with how he shot the ball and couldn’t wait to make amends for what he felt was a less-than-desirable performance.
Wise shouldn’t be nearly as annoyed after this one.
The 6-2 senior guard scored seven of the Prexies’ 11 first-quarter points, made all 15 of his free throws and finished with 30 points to carry Wash High to a 64-54 win over Pikeville (Ky.) Saturday at Canon-McMillan High School.
“I didn’t shoot the ball very well (Friday), so I couldn’t wait for pregame,” Wise said. “I felt pretty good. I used those (early) shots to get my confidence going. Fortunately I got to the free throw line, so if my shot was off, I had a chance to get my rhythm back.”
The win puts Wash High (2-0) in today’s (8 p.m.) championship game.
Besides Wise, Billy Edwards and Jaylin Kelly had 12 points apiece. Pikeville got 19 points from guard Chase Rowe.
Leading by one after three quarters, Wash High pulled away by scoring 20 of its 29 points in the fourth quarter on free throws.
It also navigated a physical final frame, one that got so testy that Pikeville coach Bart Williams was assessed a technical foul for kicking the front of the scorer’s table.
“The thing I was proud of there at the end was that we had a little bit of a lead and it started getting competitive there at the end, a little heated,” Wash High coach Mark Gaither said. “Our guys kept their composure, kept their mouths zipped, didn’t let emotion get the best of them.”
Wash High forward got the best of 6-8 Pikeville center Ray Kasongo, holding him to just five points and zero field goals, though Kasongo, who’s being recruited by USC and DePaul, did block eight shots and pull down seven rebounds.
“We played with a lot of heart, excitement and energy,” Kelly said. “Our big man, Jordan Drew, he played tough on that 6-8 guy.”
Wash High stretched a two-point lead to 50-41 after a 9-2 run that ended with a one-handed dunk from Drew, who finished with six points.
Pikeville drew to within five at 55-50, but Wise made all eight of his free throws over the final 90 seconds to seal the win.
“We know it’s going to come down to that,” Wise said. “That’s something that we stress. We stay and shoot free, and (Gaither) makes us. You miss, you run. In this case, if you miss, you lose.”
Wash High trailed, 13-11, after the first quarter, despite a long jumper, a nifty baseline layup and a 3-pointer from Wise, who finished with seven points in the period.
The Prexies took a 23-20 lead on a behind-the-back layup from Wise at 1:59 of the second period, but Pikeville responded with seven consecutive points, including five free throws from freshman guard Ryder Johnson, before Edwards made a 3-pointer with less than a second before halftime.
Wash High was behind, 27-26, at halftime, but Kelly had seven of his 12 points in the third quarter as the Prexies took a one-point lead entering the fourth.
“We have a veteran bunch, a lot of seniors,” said Gaither, who returned all five starters from last year’s team. “I don’t know if this was a game we could’ve won last year, but the guys have really grown. We learned how to win games like this last year.”