BRIDGEVILLE – The members of the North Allegheny High School boys basketball team are the mad bombers of the WPIAL. The Tigers shoot three-pointers from the game’s first possession until the final buzzer, or the scoreboard blows up, whichever comes first.
The Tigers shot 659 three-pointers in 22 regular-season games, and have six players who have attempted at least 60 shots from behind the arc.
But there is so much more to North Allegheny than just long-range shooting. And the Tigers had everything on display Wednesday night in an impressive 65-38 victory over Canon-McMillan in a Class AAAA first-round game at Chartiers Valley.
North Allegheny (20-3), the No. 2 seed, advanced to the quarterfinals Saturday. The Tigers showed no rust against C-M (11-12), making five three-pointers in the first quarter and going 14-for-23 from three-point range in the game.
Combined with a pressing defense that gave C-M fits, and a quick-passing and penetrating offense, North Allegheny dominated the cold-shooting Big Macs. Canon-McMillan was held to only four field goals and 16 points in the first half.
“This was the kind of game in which we had to jump on them early and create some doubt in the minds of their players,” C-M coach Rick Bell said. “But North Allegheny makes you play faster than you want in every facet. They make you bring the ball up the floor faster than normal, they make you pass faster and they make you shoot faster.”
On this night, C-M wasn’t up to speed. After the Big Macs led 4-2, North Allegheny put a stranglehold on control of the game by reeling off the next 14 points. Adam Haus and Joe Mancini each made two three-pointers in the first quarter, which ended with NA leading 22-11.
“We debated all week whether we should start the game playing man-to-man or a zone defense,’’ Bell said. “There is a thought that you can’t zone a three-point shooting team, but that is a misconception. What we did was change our entire man-to-man defense, from a style that sags into the passing lanes, to one that tried to get up on their shooters. We didn’t want them hitting uncontested threes. But they shot it so well that they made ’em even when we were there defensively.”
The Tigers showed no ill effects of having more than a week off since ending the regular season.
“It seemed even longer,” NA coach Dave DeGregorio said. “The last two days we had really good practices and we came out and played very well defensively, both in the full- and half-court.”
Canon-McMillan was held to five points in the second quarter and seven in the third, which ended with North Allegheny leading 49-23. The Tigers trapped full-court after both made baskets and misses, and their half-court man-to-man forced C-M to start its offense farther away from the basket than normal. It was an uncomfortable experience all-around for the C-M offense.
“They are a really unique team, different than anyone we’ve played” said C-M senior guard Brett Haney, who led the Big Macs with 10 points. “They’re obviously good shooters, but their defense puts a lot of pressure on the opponent’s guards. We didn’t do a good job of handling that.”
C-M had 18 turnovers and had only six field goals through three quarters.
“Looking at the tape of North Allegheny, we knew we had to handle their pressure, and I thought we had a good plan,” Bell said. “We’ve been using a five-guard offense. But seeing something on film and experiencing reality are two different things. … They make you play and shoot fast. Brett Haney is one of the best shooters I’ve seen or coached, and they even made him take quick shots.”
Adam Haus and James Meeker each scored 14 points to lead NA. All of Mancini’s 12 points came on three-pointers.
Haney was the only C-M player to score in double figures. Seth Petras and Ryan Gillespie each had a game-high nine rebounds.