NEPA Sports Nation

Royals break away from Patriots

Pictured above: Holy Redeemer’s George Sabatini goes up for a shot while defended by Pittston Area’s Matt Walter. (Tom Robinson Photo)

By Tom Robinson,

PLAINS TWP. – Using long possessions, Pittston Area was just about where it wanted to be as the third quarter of Thursday night’s Wyoming Valley Conference Boys Basketball Tournament semifinal drew to a close.

In the 4.2 seconds that remained, however, Holy Redeemer used its offensive explosiveness to begin the burst that created the separation the Division 2 champions needed to advance to the tournament final with a 48-35 victory.

Holy Redeemer will play at Division 1 champion Dallas Saturday at 7:30 for the tournament title. The game follows the 6 p.m. girls championship in which Holy Redeemer faces Lake-Lehman.

Anthony Cencetti, who led Pittston Area with 15 points, hit two free throws to cut the Holy Redeemer lead to 30-27 in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

The Royals, however, used every available fraction of a second to produce the game’s biggest play.

Darryl Wright sped up the court, drew the defense’s attention and still had time to send the ball to the left corner where Jacob Hunter beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer for a six-point lead.

“I thought we had the game where we wanted it,” Pittston Area coach Al Semenza said. “It’s a three-point game before we mess up on the last (4.2) seconds of the third quarter. If they don’t make that 3-pointer, it’s a three-point game going into the fourth quarter and, in sports, when the supposedly better team is in a battle, the pressure sometimes gets to them.

“We were trying to keep it as close as we could. I thought that was the momentum swinger.”

The Royals carried that momentum into the fourth quarter.

Held without an offensive rebound to that point, they got  in the first 16 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Jeff Kozerski could not convert the first putback attempt, but George Sabatini was there.

Sabatini, who had provided a spark with a 3-for-3 effort in his nine first-half minutes, grabbed the second rebound and scored.

Zach Perta then made a steal and scored, completing a burst of 7 points in less than 40 seconds for the game’s first double-figures lead, 37-27.

Holy Redeemer rolled from there, keeping Pittston Area without a field goal for a stretch of more than seven minutes as the run extended to 14-1 on another Hunter 3-pointer for a 44-28 lead with 2:57 left.

Hunter, who was 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, and Perta, who made 3 steals, each finished with 12 points.

Offsetting what had been a Pittston Area inside advantage in his absence, Sabatini added 10 points while helping the Royals outscore the Patriots by 20 in the half of the game he played.

“I thought George was great,” Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido said. “He gave us a huge boost. He’s been working on his game in the high post area and he gave us a couple big buckets.”

Wright had four assists and three steals while Mark Atherton supplied another boost off the bench with a game-high four steals.

Overall Holy Redeemer’s bench outproduced Pittston Area’s, 14-3 in points, 4-2 in rebounds, 3-2 in assists, 4-0 in steals and 1-0 in blocked shots.

Silvio Giardina made his three, first-half 3-point attempts while adding 12 points and 3 assists for Pittston Area (14-8). Cencetti had three steals for the Patriots, who lost their fourth straight since being tied for the Division 1 lead late in the season.

Holy Redeemer (21-2) is the top-ranked Small School boys team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams heading into the Saturday 7:30 game at defending tournament champion Dallas. The Big School No. 1 Mountaineers are 20-3.

“I kind of think this conference championship is a cool thing, especially for us,” Guido said. “I think there are some people who see us with a 12-0 record or we didn’t lose a conference game two years in a row and they say we’re playing in Division 2 and it’s not as good as Division 1. I’m certainly not going to argue all that stuff out, but it’s a good way for us to get in the mix with some of those teams from Division 1.

“ … The basketball’s pretty even. Division 1 and Division 2 are not that far separated from each other on some nights.”

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