WEXFORD – Midway through the fourth quarter of its state playoff game Friday night against WPIAL champion and section rival Montour, the South Fayette High School boys basketball team was right where it wanted to be. The Lions had a two-point lead and their rarely used triangle-and-two defense had taken away much of Montour’s perimeter shooting.
None of this was surprising to Montour coach Adam Kaufman.
“We’ve played South Fayette 14 times in four years, and none of the games were blowouts,” Kaufman said. “They know every tendency that we have. We know all of their tendencies. When that happens, coaching doesn’t matter. It comes down to which players can make plays on their own to win games.”
And one of the best players, and biggest winners, in the WPIAL over the last three years has been Montour point guard Devin Wilson. Down the stretch, Montour had too much Wilson for South Fayette.
Wilson scored eight of his game-high 24 points in the final four minutes and assisted on two other late baskets as Montour rallied for a 52-43 victory over upset-minded South Fayette in a PIAA Class AAA first-round game at North Allegheny High School.
“Wilson is always the difference,” South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said following a lengthy postgame talk with his team. “He just controls the game. He’s a great player.”
Wilson, a 6-4 senior, is the kind of talented player that NCAA Division I programs thrive with. That’s why major college head coaches Jay Wright (Villanova) and Phil Martelli (St. Joseph’s) and an assistant from Rutgers were in the building to watch Montour’s point guard. And they saw Wilson take charge when the outcome in doubt.
After Lucas Russell cut down the middle of the lane for a layup that gave South Fayette (14-11) a 41-39 lead, Wilson powered his way through the Lions’ defense for a driving basket that tied the score. On Montour’s next possession, Wilson drove again, but this time, just before shooting, he threaded a pass through traffic to Justin Hall at the low block for a go-ahead basket.
Following a missed shot by the Lions, Wilson drove again, and found Hill for an identical layup that made the score 45-41 with less than two minutes left.
“There have been a lot of good players come through (the WPIAL) and Devin deserves to be mentioned with any of them,” Kaufman said. “He has a drive and will to win that I haven’t seen at Montour before.”
Wilson helped Montour (22-4) pad its lead down the stretch by making six of eight free throws. The Spartans outscored South Fayette 19-9 in the fourth quarter, including 13-2 over the final four minutes. For South Fayette, it was a repeat of a loss to Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL quarterfinals when the Lions played spectacular basketball for 28 minutes before faltering late.
“We matched Montour in terms of execution and poise, but it was the same as the Chartiers Valley game,” Bonnaure said.
For three quarters, South Fayette frustrated Montour with a triangle-and-two that had the Lions playing man-to-man against the Spartans’ wing players, Kevin Scuilli and either Dustin Sileva or Robert Julian. Scuilli, who made six three-pointers in a Montour win over SF in the regular season, was held to four points, and Julian did not score. Sileva, however, did make two clutch three-pointers in the second half.
South Fayette led 22-21 at halftime and 34-33 after three quarters.
“What the triangle-and-two did was have us taking shots without confidence,” Kaufman said. “We also had guys who weren’t used to shooting taking shots.”
It was the first time all year South Fayette played the gimmick defense.
“We had practiced it for Montour during the regular season,” Bonnaure said. “You have to sag and help so much on Wilson that it leaves the perimeter shooters open. With that defense, we’d stay on the shooters. It’s something we had been keeping in our back pocket.”
And it was working, as was South Fayette’s offense. C.J. Rudisill, a 6-6 senior, stepped out behind the arc and made four three-pointers and scored 18 points, and point guard Evan Bonnaure scored 12 points.
But in the fourth quarter, Montour decided the triangle-and-two was best attacked by Wilson driving hard to the rim. Those drives turned the momentum in favor of the Spartans, who advance to Tuesday night’s second round.
In addition to Wilson’s 24 points and 10 rebounds, Hill had 12 points for the Spartans.