CANONSBURG – The boys basketball game Tuesday night between Canon McMillan and Peters Township was one that could have major playoff implications in Section 4-AAAA come February.
Knowing that, the Big Macs put together a solid effort at both ends of the floor for a 55-46 win that gives them a two-game edge for the final playoff spot halfway through the section season.
“It was a good performance,” said Canon-Mac head coach Rick Bell. “We obviously don’t talk about the standings to the kids as we need to stay focused on our opponent. But they know what’s going on and who is doing what, and this is one we needed.”
Bell decided to go primarily to a zone defense and start freshman Britton Beachy for a second consecutive game. Both decisions paid off in a big way.
The zone was very effective and kept the Indians out of the lane for most of the night. It also gave Beachy gave the Big Macs another ball-handler on the floor as C-M (4-2, 8-5) didn’t have many problems against the Peters Twp. (3-4, 6-8) press.
“Many coaches like to think that you can’t zone a three-point shooting team,” said Bell. “Our thought was to keep them out of the paint and prevent them from penetrating and kicking. Starting Jake Papi also gave us some extra length inside, which also made a difference. Offensively, we needed as many ball-handlers on the floor as we could get. We knew they would press us aggressively. That’s who they are.”
Both teams exchanged baskets throughout the first quarter, but the Big Macs scored the final four points to take a 13-0 lead. Things stayed very tight in the second quarter until C-M broke open a tie game with a 7-0 run.
Beachy made a three-pointer from the corner to give Canon-Mac the lead, and the Big Macs looked to break the game open after that.
However, the Indians were able to stay close by converting at the free-throw line. Seven of PT’s 10 second-quarter points came as a result of free throws and the Indians pulled within 21-19. But the Big Macs scored the final four points of the half, including a jumper at the buzzer from point guard Sam Bohn to take a 25-19 lead into the half.
For a second consecutive game, Beachy led the Big Macs’ offense through the first half, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the game’s first 16 minutes.
However, unlike their previous game against Mt. Lebanon, the Big Macs didn’t go cold in the second half, especially in the case of Alex Hammers.
Hammers scored 15 of his game-high 20 points over the final two quarters to help the Big Macs to a big section win.
Hammers and the Big Macs took off in the fourth quarter.
C-M opened with 13-6 run to extend its lead to 13 at 47-34 with Hammers chipping in 10 points during the final quarter.
“We had to redeem ourselves for our performance at Mt. Lebanon,” said Hammers. “We didn’t want things to get too tight in the fourth quarter so we had to step up and make some shots. This was a big win for us.”
PT made one last late run in the fourth when Kelson Marisa knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to pull the Indians within 47-40 with just under two minutes left. But the Big Macs made their free throws down the stretch and Peters Twp. never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
The Indians were led in scoring by J.C. Brush, who finished with 12.
“We had our looks,” said Peters Twp. head coach Gary Goga. “We just have to be able to knock down shots. We have to get in the gym and keep shooting. We have to find a way to string together a few wins in a row.”