LORETTO - Both teams wore their away uniforms to St. Francis University's DeGol Arena for the District 6 Class AA high school boys basketball championship game.
In the end, though, it was returning champion Bishop McCort that seemed more at home.
The Crimson Crushers weathered a Bellwood-Antis storm early, then wore the Blue Devils down behind the contributions of some unlikely heroes to pull away, 71-60, on Saturday night to become the first team to repeat as 6-AA boys champ in 12 years.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bellwood-Antis’ Seth Worthing shoots over Bishop McCort’s Jordan Salvia on Saturday.
"We played hard for three quarters. In the fourth quarter, we just had some mental mistakes,'' said Bellwood-Antis coach Brent Gerwert, whose team slipped to 20-6 despite 20 points and nine rebounds from Noah Davis, 10 points off the bench from Seth Worthing and nine from Alex Dionis. "That's why you play the game. They were here [before], and inexperience catches up. You live, you learn.''
The final margin was double figures, but it was a lot closer most of the way. The Devils led by five in the first quarter, and a pair of David Wolfe foul shots had Bellwood within four at 58-54 with 3:06 to play with McCort's outstanding sophomore big man Nemo Trexler carrying four fouls.
McCort, though, scored 13 of the next 15 points - 11 from the foul line - to put it away.
"They got a lot of loose balls, a lot of second-chance points, and they made their foul shots, which makes a big difference down the stretch,'' Wolfe said. "Give them a lot of credit. They stepped up and did what they needed to do.''
Billy Hipp fronted the Crushers with 20 points, while fellow guard Jerqual Wilson netted 14 as McCort improved to 17-7 and took home its fourth 6-AA trophy in eight years. The Crushers are the first team to win it in consecutive years since Westmont Hilltop in 1990-2000.
"Our guys have really committed to being all in and everybody being ready to step up at any given time,'' McCort coach Pat Hollern said.
Hipp and Wilson did most of their damage in the first half, combining for 23 points as the Crushers recovered from a 15-10 deficit to take a 36-31 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Bellwood quickly got Trexler onto the McCort bench with his third and fourth fouls. Unfortunately for the Devils, the players coming in for the 6-foot-4 soph proved to be very effective, too. Less than two minutes after coming in for Trexler, Gap Barbin showed a surprising first step and beat Davis to the hoop for consecutive three-point plays. He added two more free throws and an assist as part of a 10-2 run in the third quarter and rebounded a missed Hipp foul shot with 2:20 left and McCort ahead by just five.
Another McCort reserve forward, Tyler Rugg, scored six points. Heading into the game, Barbin and Rugg were averaging 2.4 points combined.
"That's the thing about this team: We've got each others' backs,'' Barbin said. "The special thing about this team is we've got five great starters, and we've got guys on the bench who are just waiting to come in and make a difference.
"I had to step up. I just got an open basket saw the lane and saw the rim and took it. I was a little nervous that [Davis] was going to stuff me, but I got it in, got to the line, and it paid off.''
McCort's bench outscored Bellwood's, 25-14. Hollern played 11 players in the first half.
"We lost our composure a bit. We were right there,'' Gerwert said. "I think we got wore down there at the end. In the fourth quarter, we got tired and our mental lapses really caught up with us.''
The Devils matched McCort bucket for bucket in the early going, then went on a 9-2 run to take a 15-10 lead on Davis' hook shot. Six different Blue Devils scored in the first half.
"It's always tough to lose in a championship game. The first three quarters, we were giving them a good game,'' Davis said.
Bellwood will take on District 5 champ Conemaugh Township, a 61-47 winner over Chestnut Ridge, next Saturday, presumably at Pitt-Johnstown.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (60): Dionis 4 0-0 9, Steffen 2 0-0 5, Sinisi 2 1-2 5, Wolfe 3 0-0 7, Davis 6 7-10 20, S. Worthing 4 1-2 10, Sisto 1 1-2 4, Wyland 0 0-0 0, C. Worthing 0 0-0 0, Hollen 0 0-0 0, K. Bartlett 0 0-0 0. Totals - 22 10-18 60.
BISHOP MCCORT (71): Wilson 5 2-3 14, Varga 0 2-2 2, Hipp 7 4-8 20, Leech 1 0-0 2, Trexler 3 2-6 8, Spangler 2 2-2 7, Barbin 2 4-5 8, Salvia 1 0-1 2, Kinter 0 0-0 0, Howard 1 0-0 2, Rugg 3 0-0 6, DeFrancesco 0 0-0 0, Pastorek 0 0-0 0, Sobecky 0 0-2 0, Ingram 0 0-0 0, Burgo 0 0-0 0. Totals - 25 16-27 71.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis15 16 13 21-71
Bishop McCort18 18 14 16-60
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 6 (Steffen, Wolfe, Dionis, Davis, S. Worthing, Sisto); Bishop McCort 5 (Wilson 2, Hipp 2, Spangler).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (20-6); Bishop McCort (17-7).
Officials: Darrell Jones, Denny Gramling, John Thompson.