CANONSBURG – When you have a good team on the ropes, sometimes the hardest punch to land is the knockout blow.
That was the case for South Fayette Friday night as the Lions had Chartiers Valley on two different occasions in their WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal boys basketball playoff game.
Given an opportunity to hang around, Chartiers Valley made an epic comeback over the course of the game’s final 4:40 to stun the Lions 67-62 at Canon-McMillan High School.
South Fayette trailed 47-46 entering the fourth quarter, but went on a 12-2 run to take what looked to be a commanding 58-49 lead with just under five minutes remaining.
However, the Lions scored only four more points the rest of the game as Chartiers Valley (21-3) went on a 16-0 run to take command of the game.
The outburst was keyed by Dom Castello and some clutch free-throw shooting from Matty McConnell to erase the deficit and help the Colts advance to the WPIAL semifinals where they will meet Beaver, a winner over Kittanning Friday night.
While the Colts’ fourth quarter comeback was impressive, it wasn’t their only one of the second half.
South Fayette (14-10) led by as many as nine in the first half and eventually took a 35-30 lead into the locker room before the Lions went on a 7-0 run to take a 42-30 lead with just 4:17 remaining in the third quarter.
The Colts wasted little time erasing that deficit as well.
Costello hit a big three-pointer that started to swing the momentum, before Michael Boulos knocked down a pair of free-throws to make it a three-point game.
Boulos later converted a four-point play to give the Colts a one-point lead at 44-43.
The Char Valley 14-1 run was momentarily stopped by an Evan Bonnaure three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining in the third quarter, but Boulos drained a buzzer beater from half court to end quarter.
“I thought that sequence gave us the momentum,” said Bolous, who finished with a team-high 20 points. “We started slow, but that gave us confidence. We work harder than any team out there and we play with emotion. We really didn’t have that emotion until that point.”
The Lions regained the momentum in the fourth quarter before going ice cold at the wrong time.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said South Fayette head coach Rich Bonnaure. “We played our hearts out and I think we brought the best out of them. It’s never good to lose but if you have to, losing a game where you bring out your opponents best is the way to go. It was a classic game. It’s unfortunate one team had to lose.”
The Lions were led in scoring by Zach Challingsworth, who scored a game-high 21 points, but 15 of those came in the first half as he set the tone early knocking down a trio of three-pointers in the first quarter.
Bonnaure added 17 for the Lions, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
In addition to the 20 from Bolous, the Colts also got big games from McConnell (19) and Castello (13). Eleven of Castello’s points came in the second half, which fueled both of the Colts big comebacks.
“We showed heart,” said Chartiers Valley head coach Tim McConnell. “Once we fell behind by nine in the fourth I was getting a little worried, but to be able to comeback not once but twice I think shows exactly what this team is made of.”