CANONSBURG – Just a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the Canon-McMillan boys basketball team heading to the WPIAL playoffs was a forgone conclusion.
But after four consecutive Section 4-AAAA losses, the Big Macs are fighting for their playoff lives.
The good news is C-M still controls its own fate.
The bad news is the Big Macs couldn’t take care of business Tuesday night they lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer to Mt. Lebanon, 34-32. Mt. Lebanon’s Eddie Jenkins made his second buzzer-beater of the game, a driving layup as time expired to sink the Big Macs.
“I’m proud of my kids,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Rick Bell. “I’m proud of the effort. It’s a tough one, but we played really hard. I thought we played well defensively. They just made the play at the end.”
The Big Macs (6-6, 10-9) were fortunate to stay in the game early as Mt. Lebanon’s size helped them to a decisive rebounding edge. The Blue Devils grabbed six offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.
The teams exchanged three-pointers in the first quarter with Blue Devils point guard Jonny David making two. C-M’s Sam Bohn and Costa Karanikos answered to tie the score at 8-8 before Jenkins gave Mt. Lebo an 11-8 edge after one quarter with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Karanikos made back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter to give the Big Macs a 14-13 edge, and then Bohn made his second shot from behind the arc to put C-M up by five, their biggest lead of the game.
Mt. Lebo stormed back with a 7-2 run and took a 21-20 advantage into the half.
Canon-Mac came out of the locker room with an 8-3 run behind three-pointers from Britton Beachy and Bohn to open a 28-24 lead, but David continued to keep the Blue Devils in the game with his shooting, making two more three-pointers in the quarter to pull the Blue Devils within one.
Neither team scored in the final 4:14 of the quarter and C-M led 28-27 heading to the fourth.
Beachy broke a six-minute scoreless drought for the Big Macs with a pair of free-throws early in the fourth quarter, and Bohn knocked down a jumper to tie the score at 32-32 four minutes remaining. Those, however, would be the last points Canon-Mac would score.
Both teams were patient on offense throughout the game and defended well, leaving limited opportunities to score.
“The looks that we were making early, we just haven’t been making lately,” said Bell.
Mt. Lebanon (9-4, 11-10) got the ball with just over two minutes remaining and was able to hold onto it and run out the clock out until Jenkins hit the game-winner.
‘”We knew they would be deliberate with the ball,” Bell said. “They made a tough play.”
Bohn led all scorers with 13 points. David (12) and Jenkins (10) both finished in double figures for Mt. Lebanon.
The Big Macs’ playoff hopes are still alive, but it comes down to having to defeat both Trinity (tonight) and Peters Township (Friday) to close out the regular season.
“We just have to keep plugging and fight through it,” said Bell. ‘We have to wash it off.”