McMURRAY – Maybe it was a case of playoff jitters. Perhaps it was Wilkinsburg’s defensive quickness and shot-altering ability. Or, as Carmichaels boys basketball coach Don Williams suggested, maybe it was just one of those nights a basketball team sometimes endures at the worst possible time.
Whatever the reason, when Carmichaels walked onto the court Tuesday night for a Class A first-round playoff game against Wilkinsburg, the Mikes did so without bringing along their scoring touch.
Carmichaels, a team that relies on drives, fast-breaks and a strong inside game, couldn’t score in any of those fashions for most of the night. The cold-shooting Mikes were held to only 15 field goals and were eliminated by opportunistic Wilkinsburg, 63-42, at Peters Township High School.
The win was the 10th in the last 12 games for Wilkinsburg (13-9) and sends the Tigers into the quarterfinals Friday against top-seeded Lincoln Park.
Carmichaels falls to 17-5 and is left wondering what happened to its scoring touch.
“We haven’t shot that poorly all year,” veteran head coach Don Williams said. “We definitely had opportunities in the first half. We were able to get to the rim; we just couldn’t get a shot to fall. We were tight.”
Carmichaels trailed by only 13-9 after one quarter, but the Mikes were held to four second-quarter points and fell behind 29-13 at halftime. On this night, it was too much of a deficit to overcome when points did not come easily.
While the Mikes were able to drive and pass the ball inside against Wilkinsburg’s 2-3 zone defense, the Mikes couldn’t get many shots to fall, even those from point-blank range. And Carmichaels also threw away too many possessions, committing 12 of their 22 turnovers in the first half.
Heck, the Mikes couldn’t even capitalize at the free-throw line, where they were 9-for-20 for the game and an anemic 1-for-8 in the first half.
“If we could have hit a couple of buckets in the first half, it would have changed our outlook,” Williams said. “Those missed shots got our heads down, and you can’t do that against a team like Wilkinsburg.”
Much of Carmichaels’ offense was limited to drives by Brandon Lawless and perimeter shooting by Ty Cole. Lawless played a fine all-around game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Cole finished with 17 points.
The rest of the Mikes’ team combined for only three field goals, which is just the way Wilkinsburg coach Reuben Coleman had it planned.
“What we saw on tape was that a lot of their offense went through (Lawless),” Coleman said. “We wanted to contain him, and No. 3 (Cole) and make the other guys beat us.”
Cole scored seven third-quarter points as the Mikes trailed 39-25 entering the fourth. A layup by Lawless and two free throws by Cole had Carmichaels within 42-29 with seven minutes remaining, but Wilkinsburg kicked its offense into high gear down the stretch and turned the game into a series of fast-break layups.
“This game was in not indicative of the way we played all year,” Williams said. “There really is no difference between Wilkinsburg and Clairton or Monessen, teams that we played twice this year. We beat Monessen. This just wasn’t our night.”
Jonathan Blue paced Wilkinsburg with 18 points. D’Shawn Adair had 16 and Isaiah Pete scored his 10 points in the second half.
All of Carmichaels’ points were scored by underclassmen. Seniors Josh Mundell and Sean Smoggie each started and played extensively but did not score, though Mundell did grab nine rebounds.
The game marked the conclusion of Williams’ 38th season as Carmichaels’ head coach. He has 452 career wins, which is the Greene County record.
Will there be a 39th year on the bench?
“Definitely,” Williams said without hesitation. “I told this group when they were sophomores that I would stick with them. We’re going to miss Josh and Sean, but the next six guys are back. The future looks bright.”