No reason for alarm, Peters Township wins PIAA opener

4 min read
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Mark Marietta

Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township’s Brendan McCullough drives hard and draws a foul against Milton Hershey’s Larry Onabanwo (1). The subsequent free throw put the Indians up 48-44 with less than six minutes left in the PIAA 5A playoff game on March 10 at AHN Arena.

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Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township's Jack Dunbar (45) intercepts a baseline pass intended for Milton Hershey's Malachi Thomas.

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Mark Marietta

Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township’s Jack Dunbar launches a pass from the top of the key through Milton Hershey defenders.

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Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township’s Brendan McCullough draws a foul against Milton Hershey’s Jason Burney (2).

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Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township's Nate Miller splits the Milton Hershey defenders and lays in two of the 10 points in the Indians' 60-53 victory in a PIAA 5A playoff game Friday night.

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Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Sophomore Mickey Vaccarello (44) looks for an outlet.

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Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter

Peters Township's Mickey Vaccarello (44) drives for two of his 14 points.

McMURRAY – The energy surrounding Friday night’s first round PIAA Class 5A boys basketball playoff game was intense enough to trip the fire alarm at the AHN Arena at Peters Township High School.

Though the game between host Peters Township and Milton Hershey was delayed nearly 30 minutes, it could not dampen the atmosphere inside the gymnasium as the Indians gutted out a tough 60-53 win to advance to the second round of the state tourney.

Peters Township (23-4) will play the winner of the Central Mountain-Lampeter Strasburg contest on Tuesday at a site and time yet to be determined.

Brendan McCullough led Peters Township with 21 points while Mickey Vaccarello chipped in 14 and was clutch throughout. Nate Miller contributed 10 points.

“Mickey was awesome tonight,” Peters Township coach Joe Urmann said. “He did all the dirty work needed to win. He’s been getting better and better all year and was lights out tonight.”

Milton Hershey’s Malachi Thomas led all scorers with 23 points. Larry Onabanwo scored 22 for the Spartans.

McCullough and Vaccarello kept the Indians afloat in the third quarter with five and four points, respectively, in the frame. Thomas made life difficult for Peters Township on the other end of the floor as he scored nine points in the quarter.

But the Indians were able to get key stops and rebound the ball with more authority in the third as the hosts carried a 45-40 lead into the final stanza.

“I thought we defended better in the second half, for sure,” Urmann noted. “A lot of our problems on offense I think stemmed from us not getting enough stops, especially early. We’re primarily a man-to-man team. We changed some matchups. Their game plan was to spread us out and take it to the basket. We just challenged guys to guard and changed up our matchups.”

Vaccarello gave the Indians some breathing room with four minutes left in the fourth quarter with a driving layup to give the hosts a 50-46 advantage. A Miller scoop shot pushed the lead to 52-46 with a little more than three minutes remaining.

Cam Mills then made two free throws to extend the Peters Township lead to eight with 1:50 left and seemingly sealed the deal for the hosts.

But the game Spartans (19-9) made a final push as a Thomas old-fashioned three-point play along with an Onabanwo score off a turnover sliced the deficit to 54-51 in the waning moments.

But McCullough and Miller sealed the game from the foul-line, making five of six down the stretch, to send the Indians on to Round 2 of the state tournament.

McCullough echoed his coach’s sentiments about their early struggles were more attributable to how they defended.

“We came out slow and weren’t rebounding,” McCullough added. “Once we let the game come to us, and we started boxing out and rebounding, we were OK. That’s how we typically win is by defense and rebounding.”

Both squads battled throughout a back-and-forth first half. Milton Hershey grabbed leads of 4-0 and 11-6 in the opening frame. But a 10-0 run by Peters Township propelled the hosts to a 16-11 lead as the game churned into the second quarter. Vaccarello came off the bench to buoy the Indians with six first quarter points.

The Spartans roared back in the second quarter, out scoring Peters Township 16-11 in the frame. A key sequence occurred at the 5:58 mark of the period when Jack Dunbar blocked a dunk attempt by Adam Rosa. Dunbar was called for a foul and a technical in the process, which sent him the bench with three first-half fouls.

Though the Spartans would miss three of four from the stripe as a result of the two fouls, Rosa would knock down a three-pointer, which knotted the contest at 18-18.

Onabanwo led the Spartans with eight second quarter points as the half ended tied 27-27.


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