NEPA Sports Nation

Cougars battle past Cavaliers

By Tom Robinson,

SCRANTON – Scranton Prep made sure it was not easy, but Valley View earned its title shot Tuesday.

Eli Yusavage scored 22 points and A.J. Kucharski added 20 Tuesday night as the Cougars fought back from an early seven-point deficit to defeat the host Cavaliers, 69-66, in a Lackawanna League Division 1 boys basketball finale.

Valley View and Abington Heights each finished 11-2 in the league and will play for the division title Friday night at 7:30 at Scranton High School.

Yusavage scored 10 points in the second quarter, but the Cougars still trailed by a point at halftime.

“We haven’t won a league championship in about 20 years, so we really emphasized that this is a big game right here,” said Yusavage, who also had three steals. “We’re on their home court; they’re going to bring it; they’re going to want to beat us because we beat them last time.

“We have to be a family and we have to go win.”

Kucharski had seven points in the third quarter when the Cougars moved in front.

“We handled our business tonight,” Kucharski said. “We started off a little shaky, but coach got us and told us to calm down.

“We just played our game the rest of the game.”

Kucharski made two of his three steals in the fourth quarter, helping to keep the Cougars moving in transition, and was 6-for-8 from the line as part of the 12-for-16 team effort over the final eight minutes.

“We were finishing at the rim and we made our free throws,” he said. “That’s what closed us out.”

Taheed Jewell was a big part of the late transition game with seven of his nine points in the final 4:18. He also had a team-high four assists, shared the team rebound lead of five with Kucharski and made two steals.

“The key was to try to limit them to one shot and get out and run and get in transition,” said Valley View coach Mike Kurpis, whose team improved after Scranton Prep dominated on the boards early. “Let the athletes take over.

“When A.J., Taheed and Eli are in the open court, they score much easier.”

Kyle Rupp added eight points and two blocked shots.

James Pettinato led Scranton Prep with 22 points.

Pettinato had nine in the last 3:06 when he twice pulled the Cavaliers within three points, then hit a floater in the lane to cut the deficit to 68-66 with 9.8 seconds left.

Yusavage made the first of two free throws with 8.5 remaining and Scranton Prep fumbled the rebound out of bounds with 5.8 left. Kucharski dribbled into the open and the Cougars were able to run out the clock without having to go back to the foul line.

Keith Pritchyk was a big part of Scranton Prep’s upset bid, providing bench and rebounding strength.

Pritchyk had 11 points and 9 rebounds, 5 of them offensive. Brycen Martin had six points in the first quarter coming off the bench and added eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

Ambrose Rossi had six points and nine rebounds while Kelly Casey had seven points and seven rebounds.

The Cavaliers grabbed 11 of the game’s first 13 rebounds, boosting them to an 11-4 lead. They finished with a 35-25 rebounding advantage.

“They definitely were the more physical team and imposed their will inside,” Kurpis said. “We tried to stress five guys rebounding, but Rossi and Pritchyk especially did a great job inside.”

Daniel Santaniello had eight points and two blocked shots for the Cavaliers.

Valley View, the third-ranked Big School boys team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams, improved to 18-3 overall. The Cougars split with Abington Heights, moving into a tie for the lead when they won at home Feb. 3.

Scranton Prep finished tied for third in the division at 7-6 and is 13-9 overall.

The Cougars and Cavaliers are 1-2 in the District 2 Class 4A playoff seeding race and highly likely to end there. That would mean both teams would have quarterfinal and semifinal home games if they keep winning.

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