PITTSBURGH – With a section that includes Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon, not to mention Canon-McMillan or Trinity, Peters Township senior Gabe Pritz knows his basketball team can’t afford losses like the 48-45 defeat the Indians’ suffered at Mt. Lebanon Friday.
“This section is even enough that there are really no automatic wins this year,” Pritz said. “I don’t think that was our mindset, but it just proves that there’s no game you walk into and think, ‘We’re automatically going to win.’”
At 2-2, Peters Township became one of only two Section 4-AAAA teams without a winning record, though the Indians can change that in a hurry when they play Hampton at 3:30 p.m. today in the PBC Holiday Festival at Aliquippa.
Friday’s game turned sour for Peters Township after Pritz made a pair of free throws with 3:53 left in the third quarter to put his team ahead, 33-29. Mt. Lebanon (1-0, 2-2) closed the period on a 9-1 run to take a 38-34 lead.
“We beat them pretty good in the third quarter,” Mt. Lebanon coach Joey David said.
Peters Township trailed by six with less than a minute to play in the game before Pritz and Jake Blandino scored to make it 47-45. But Blandino missed a free throw that would’ve completed a three-point play, Eric Lewis was called for a foul on what could have been a game-tying, coast-to-coast steal and lay-in, and Lewis’ 3-pointer at the buzzer caromed off the front of the rim.
“We didn’t play well,” Peters Township coach Gary Goga said. “Mt. Lebanon played better than we did down the stretch, and that was the difference in the game. It’s that simple.”
Pritz finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds while also blocking a pair of shots. Dakota Norton made a pair of 3-pointers and contributed 10 points, and Jake Parello added seven.
Mt. Lebanon got 17 points from Tyler Roth, 15 from Justin David and 10 from Matt Hoffman, who came off the bench. The Blue Devils also made six 3-pointers, leaving Peters Township players to bemoan the defensive effort.
“We were sloppy,” Norton said. “We didn’t talk and just didn’t play good defense.”
Both teams played solid defense early, as Mt. Lebanon had an 8-6 edge after one quarter.
Things opened up in the second quarter, with 11 lead changes and two ties, before Pritz gave the Indians’ their first double-digit advantage with a soaring finger-roll that he later converted into a three-point play, pushing Peters Township ahead, 27-23, at halftime.
But after Pritz made both free throws to stretch the lead to four at 33-29, Roth hit a 3-pointer, Hoffman scored on a putback, and Justin David made a jumper from the baseline to kickstart the run.
A run late in the game that Peters Township knows it can’t permit if the Indians have serious thoughts of contending for the Section 4-AAAA title.
“It’s our first section game,” Goga said. “It’s not where you’re at on Dec. 14; it’s how you finish. We just have to keep battling and get better.”