This was a game the Washington High School boys basketball team should have won.
It just didn’t look like it early on.
With Peters Township resting four starters, including reigning Observer-Reporter Player of the Year Gabe Pritz, during a non-section game Saturday, Wash High led by just three at halftime before pulling away in the third quarter of a 57-48 home win.
“They didn’t play their stars, and we felt like it was a walk-through game,” Prexies senior Josh Wise said. “We didn’t come out with intensity. We didn’t go to the hole hard enough. We didn’t defend hard enough.”
What did the trick was a strong third quarter from Wise, who had 15 of the Prexies’ 21 points in the quarter after being held to just four in the opening half.
“Josh took over,” Peters Township coach Gary Goga said. “It’s just a great player making great plays. We had no answer for him. He’s a heck of a player. He wanted it. He came out, scored 15 in the third quarter, and that was the difference.”
Besides Pritz, Peters Township was without R.J. Pfeuffer, Jake Blandino and Dakota Norton.
All, Goga said, are nursing injuries, and he wants them to be healthy for Tuesday’s Section 4-AAAA contest against Canon-McMillan.
The win helps Wash High improve to 11-2 ahead of Tuesday’s Section 4-AA game at Burgettstown. The Indians, who got 11 points from Tim Swoope and 10 from Connor Freely, fell to 4-9.
Swoope’s kiss off the glass made it a one-point game, 25-24, roughly 90 seconds into the third quarter, though that’s when Wise took over.
Here’s how it went down: two bank shots, the second turning into a three-point play; a long jumper; two more layups that the athletic Wise turned into three-point plays; the final two points coming on a floater in the lane.
The tally: Wise 13, Indians 4.
“We were able to get Josh some clean looks,” Wash High coach Mark Gaither said. “Once you hit a couple shots with a player like him, that gets you going.”
Wash High came into this one following a 50-45 loss to Seton-La Salle Tuesday night, one that saw the Prexies’ role players struggle to match Wise’s 25 points.
On Saturday, Wash High got 11 points from Darius Spinks, seven from Jaylin Kelly (11 rebounds), six from Rikwon Moore and five from Jordan Drew. All five starters had multiple field goals.
“I felt like I could make something happen without Josh scoring all the points,” Spinks said.
Peters Township, meanwhile, had dropped its fourth straight, a 60-52, overtime defeat that featured 34 points from Pritz. Four of the Indians’ previous five losses had been by eight points or less.
“It’s been hard on them, been hard on all of us,” Goga said. “The kids are positive, and it’s a great group of guys to be around. We’re going to keep fighting.”
Wash High jumped out to a 15-9 lead after one, getting a leaner and a putback from Kelly during the frame.
Joe Brucker (seven points) and Craig Johnson (eight points) hit 3-pointers for Peters Township midway through the second quarter to pull the Indians within two, 21-19, but Wise and Drew made free throws to extend the Prexies’ lead to 23-20 at halftime.
Which didn’t exactly sit well with Gaither.
“Coach came in at halftime and told us we weren’t playing hard enough, and we really weren’t,” Wise said.
Fortunately for the Prexies, that changed, though Wise knows Wash High can’t get used to it.
“We saw their starters sitting on the sidelines, and we didn’t prepare mentally the way we should have,” the senior captain said. “And that’s something that championship teams don’t do. You have to play every game like it’s the WPIAL championship. We didn’t do that.”