CANONSBURG – Canon-McMillan senior Brett Haney didn’t mince words when describing his performance so far this season.
“Quite frankly, I’ve been playing horrible lately,” Haney said.
OK, a little harsh, considering Haney’s averaging 13 points per game.
But it also hasn’t been what he or the Canon-McMillan boys basketball team was expecting, either.
Until Friday night.
Haney shook out of his recent slump, one that started in the EQT Energy Classic in early December, and scored 23 points – 15 after halftime – to carry the Big Macs to a 59-51 overtime victory over visiting Trinity in a Section 4-AAAA game Friday night.
“I feel like I’m back a little bit,” Haney said.
Haney knocked down a pair of free throws with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 49, then scored four of the Big Macs’ 10 points in overtime as they pulled away for the win.
Canon-McMillan coach Rick Bell blamed himself for Haney’s slow start, arguing that he had lumped too much responsibility on his senior scorer.
After a 54-46 loss to Butler Dec. 27, Bell said he made Ryan Gillespie the team’s speaking captain and urged Haney to, “let your teammates help you.” He even wrote in capital letters on the blackboard across from the team’s locker room LET OTHERS HELP YOU next to Haney’s name.
“Nobody ever really said this, but I think it was felt, ‘Brett, you have to score. Brett you have to, Brett you have to,’” Bell said. “And I think sometimes we forget that Brett’s an 18-year-old kid. I think I put way too much on his plate.
“We’ve used this as a new starting point. The kid we saw tonight is the one we’re used to seeing.”
Too bad for Trinity, which has now dropped three of its past four following a 7-1 start.
The Hillers (2-2, 8-4) got 13 points apiece from Christian Koroly and Steve Vorum, but Trinity also air-balled two 3-pointers down four early in the overtime period, a momentum swing from which it would never recover.
“We took two bad shots, two threes that we shouldn’t have taken,” Hillers coach Stan Noszka said. “That was basically the difference in the game.”
Trinity had a 44-38 lead after a layup from Corey Hunsberger (eight points) with 6:04 left in the fourth quarter, but Haney knocked down a 3-pointer, a jumper from the baseline and converted two free throws to push Canon-McMillan in front, 47-46, with 2:56 to play.
The Hillers had a chance to win it on a Koroly layup late, though that rimmed out, and Gillespie stole an inbounds pass to force overtime.
“When knew we had them when we went to overtime,” Haney said.
The teams traded a pair of runs in the opening half, as Canon-McMillan took a one-point lead into halftime.
The Big Macs (2-2, 6-5) scored nine consecutive points midway through the first quarter – including four from Gillespie, who had seven in the period – and led, 19-12, after one, following a three-point play from Gillespie with 43 seconds to go. Gillespie finished with nine points.
Trinity answered with an 8-0 run of its own, getting a 3-pointer from Vorum, who led all scorers with 10 first half points, and a basket from Jared Deep to take a 23-22 lead at 2:30 of the second.
But Canon-McMillan’s D.J. Johnson came off the bench to hit a pair of jumpers within a 25-second stretch to push the Big Macs in front by three before Deep made two free throws with less than a second to go to pull his team to within one at 28-27.
Such optimism would be squashed, however, thanks to Haney’s superb performance.
“I think he’s kind of a rhythm shooter,” Noszka said. “If he hits those first couple, it makes it easier for him, and I think that’s what happened. He scored a couple buckets, got into a rhythm, and we had a hard time stopping him.”