HEIDELBERG – Chartiers-Houston’s boys basketball team was fighting to make history.
Holding a two-point lead at halftime, the Bucs were discouraged by the dominance of Charleroi’s John Arnold, a 6-7 force in the post.
Arnold had eight points and four blocked shots in the first half and made his play look effortless under the basket. The strategy in the final 16 minutes was simple: Get the big man into foul trouble.
Insert senior forward Miles Williamson, a 6-4 forward with incredible athleticism. Williamson drove into the lane to force Arnold into foul trouble and ultimately, a seat on the bench.
Williamson scored a game-high 22 points to lead Chartiers-Houston to a 66-60 victory, the first playoff win in the program’s history.
“Miles was the difference,” Bucs head coach Eugene Briggs said. “As a senior, he’s starting to evolve into a special athlete who isn’t afraid of big moments. Not a lot of kids can do that.”
The game was in doubt late in the second quarter when Charleroi took a four-point lead.
Chartiers-Houston answered with a 10-0 run in a three-minute span to take the advantage into the break. At halftime, Briggs told his team Arnold could not continue to thrive. Doing so would cost the Buccaneers the game.
With a chance to play No. 3 seed Aliquippa (16-5) on the line, Briggs turned to Williamson, who he heralds as one of the best athletes he has ever coached. Williamson, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania football recruit, has not always been a difference-maker for Chartiers-Houston. His first three seasons on the varsity were spent trying to translate his athleticism into success on the basketball court. With the Bucs’ leading scorer, sophomore Kodie Hanley, missing the game because of a lung contusion, Williamson showed polished post moves.
“These last couple of games, I’ve really stepped my game up,” Williamson said. “It comes from that athlete mentality – be great.”
Charleroi head coach Bill Wiltz, who was seeking his first playoff victory since 1998, was encouraged by the Cougars’ play in the opening half.
Arnold was physically dominant and Charleroi’s guards made timely shots.
In the third quarter, momentum shifted to Chartiers-Houston with the help of Williamson, who had 11 rebounds, and freshman guard AJ Myers, who finished with 18 points.
In a game in which the goal for the Bucs was to keep turnovers at a minimum, junior guard Alec Ferrari had 11 assists and only tuned the ball over twice.
Chartiers-Houston led 52-42 entering the final period. Charleroi responded with an 18-point fourth quarter, but Chartiers-Houston sank five of seven free throws to seal the historic win.
“We knew how athletic Miles was, but we did not know he was this good of a basketball player,” Wiltz said. “I’ve seen great athletes who can’t sink a shot. He was tough on the inside and out. That was tough for us.”
The Bucs will play Aliquippa, the Section 2-AA champion, Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. With Hanley’s status unknown, Briggs will continue to turn to Williamson and Myers for big plays.
While Briggs expects his team to savor the victory, his message to them was simple: this is far from over.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to get this first playoff win for the program. We’re not finished,” Briggs said. “There is more basketball to be played and Aliquippa will be ready for us.”