MCMURRAY – Jim Diaz wasn’t missing this one.
Sure, the Charleroi senior’s ankle was still swollen after he turned it during a win over California eight days prior.
This was the WPIAL Class AA basketball playoffs, a preliminary round game against Bishop Canevin. Diaz was playing.
“There’s no way I could miss this,” said Diaz, who said he felt about 60 percent. “Had to give it my all.”
But while Charleroi wasn’t missing Diaz, the Cougars did miss too many key shots and suffered a 59-52 loss to the Crusaders at Peters Township Saturday afternoon.
The worst: During a 6-minute, 6-second stretch to close the third quarter, Charleroi was held to just one field goal, as Bishop Canevin turned a nine-point game into what appeared to be a blowout until Charleroi made a late surge.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the hoop,” Charleroi coach Bill Wiltz said. “We couldn’t recover from it. We tried to recover from it; the kids didn’t quit. But when we went down 15, that was a big hill to climb.”
Charleroi actually trailed by 17 when Jake Seligman converted a layup to make it 51-34 at 3:32 of the fourth quarter.
But the Cougars used a 12-2 run that lasted just 2:28 to cut the deficit to seven, 53-46, following a Ryan Konek free throw at 1:04.
“We had a bad third quarter, but we kept trying to fight back,” said junior Matt Indorante, who led Charleroi with 16 points, including four three-pointers. “The team played well together. We’re a family, so we had to try and stick together and pull it out. We came up a little short.”
Bishop Canevin (11-12), which will play Beaver Falls Wednesday in the first round, used a tightly packed 2-3 zone for much of the game.
And while Charleroi knew it was coming, the shots still weren’t falling, especially not in the second half of the third quarter when the game was decided.
“They hit a few three-pointers (six), but especially in the third quarter, they couldn’t hit anything,” Bishop Canevin coach Tony DiMaria said. “I think we just took them out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Besides Indorante, Eric Johnson added 13 points for Charleroi, which closed the year at 14-7 after finishing second in Section 5-AA.
Konek had nine points and 10 rebounds, while Diaz scored 10 points.
Matt Tambellini led Bishop Canevin with 19 points, and Seligman added 17.
The Crusaders were buzzing early, scoring 10 of the game’s first 13 points, before Diaz, who was noticeably hobbled during the game, gave the Cougars a spark with a three-pointer from the top of the key.
Charleroi took a 15-14 lead before Tambellini hit a three to give him nine points in the quarter and Brennan Cahill scored on a layup, making it 19-15 Bishop Canevin after one.
The Crusaders were able to slow things down considerably in the second. They built a 29-21 lead after Tambellini scored on a reverse layup, but Indorante knocked down his third three-pointer of the half – he had a team-high 11 points in the first two quarters – to make it 31-26 Crusaders at the break.
Diaz and Sheldon Linneman are the only two seniors Charleroi will lose, which should make the Cougars one of the teams to beat next year.
Not that it’s much consolation for Diaz, who hobbled back to the locker room after having gobs of tape cut off his ankle, picking up a pat on the back from Wiltz along the way.
“We have a bright future,” Wiltz said. “Everybody in our section is senior-dominated, the key teams in our section anyway. We think we’re going to be extremely good next year if we get a good offseason in. If we do that, we’ll be tough to beat next year.”