EBENSBURG - Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School boys basketball coach Chris Drenning has enjoyed the luxury of being able to turn to 10 or more players on his roster with confidence all season.
The Marauders' depth paid handsome dividends again Tuesday night in the District 6 Class A semifinals, when Guilfoyle got significant contributions from just about everybody who took the floor in a 58-53 victory over Homer-Center at the Central Cambria High School gymnasium.
"We've played 10 or 11 guys all year, and we've been able to do that because I trust all those guys,'' Drenning said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
BG’s Sam McCloskey goes in for a fast-break bucket past John Capitosti.
The trust was well-founded again Tuesday. The Marauders got a game-high 25 points from junior guard Sam McCloskey, but Guilfoyle's overall team performance was the story line in the victory, which earned BG a berth in Friday night's 6-A championship game against archrival Bishop Carroll Catholic at St. Francis University.
After Homer-Center had shaved BG's 13-point (27-14) halftime lead to one point, 29-28 late in the third quarter, the Marauders used big efforts from key senior reserves Ben Kasun and Nick Fiore to regain some much-needed separation.
Kasun took a pass from senior Jamey Brumbaugh in the low post, dumped in a bucket, and was fouled on the play. He converted the subsequent free throw to put BG ahead, 32-28.
Moments later, Fiore followed with a dagger 3-pointer from the right corner to stake the Marauders to a 35-28 lead after three periods.
"I thought Nick Fiore hit the biggest shot of the game right there,'' Drenning said. "It was a one-point game, then all of a sudden, it's seven.''
Fiore saw an opening as the quarter was coming to a close.
"I saw the clock wind down, and I decided to put up the shot,'' he said. "I thought it was the right thing to do at the time.''
BG (19-5), which is seeded second to Carroll in the tournament, used the spurt as a springboard to an 11-point, 39-28 lead early in the fourth quarter. After senior post Owen Wolf hit one of two free throws, senior forward Damon Rickens buried another 3-pointer from the right wing.
"All those shots in a row really boosted our confidence,'' Fiore said. "This was a team effort tonight.''
Guilfoyle also overcame an injury to starting junior forward Brandon Chadbourn that prompted his exit in the third quarter. Chadbourn split his chin open during a scramble.
"He said he was feeling a little foggy, and I wouldn't let him return,'' Drenning said. "He's a valuable part of our team, and we had to move some guys around in different spots, but everybody picked it up.''
Third-seeded Homer-Center (21-3) made another run at the Marauders late in the fourth quarter, whittling BG's lead to just three points twice, 54-51 and 56-53, on two separate driving field goals by senior Darren Carr.
But the Marauders, who got eight points from McCloskey in the fourth quarter, were able to close the deal. A pair of free throws by junior reserve D.J. Kitt with two seconds left set the 58-53 final.
"Everybody contributed tonight,'' McCloskey said. "We had to match [Homer-Center's] intensity in the fourth quarter, and we did that.''
That was extremely important in a game that went back-and-forth from the start. Homer-Center built an early 9-4 lead, before the Marauders - riding a 17-point McCloskey first half - controlled the second quarter, 15-2 to take their 27-14 halftime advantage.
"We definitely played great in the first half,'' Drenning said. "But Homer-Center is 21-3 for a reason. They're a very good basketball team, and I knew at halftime that they'd make some adjustments.''
The Wildcats amped up their defensive pressure, and scored 14 of the first 16 points in the third quarter, pulling to within 29-28 on sophomore John Ireland's free throw that capped an 8-point surge.
"I can't complain about our effort - there's no quit in our guys,'' veteran Homer-Center coach Bob Rado said. "In the first half, I didn't think we trapped aggressively on defense, but we did a better job of trapping in the second half, and forcing turnovers. That's our game.''
Ireland, Carr and senior Robert Dellapenna scored 11 points apiece for Homer-Center, which faces Juniata Valley in Thursday's consolation final with a trip to the state playoffs on the line.
"If we beat Juniata Valley, we're still kicking,'' Rado said.
The Marauders' championship game with Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference rival Bishop Carroll should provide quite a kick. Carroll narrowly won two regular-season meetings with BG that both featured playoff-like intensity.
"It's Round 3,'' Drenning said of the championship showdown. "They're a great basketball team, and we know each other so well. It's great for our conference that both teams are in the district championship game. We're going to show up, play hard, and see what happens.''
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (58): Fulare 3 1-3 7, Rickens 3 1-2 8, McCloskey 9 5-8 25, Wolf 1 1-2 3, Chadbourn 2 0-0 4, Fiore 1 0-0 3, Kasun 1 1-1 3, Brumbaugh 1 1-3 3, N. Little 0 0-0 0, Gormley 0 0-2 0, Kibler 0 0-0 0, Kitt 0 2-2 2. Totals - 21 12-23 58.
HOMER_CENTER (53): Miller 2 0-0 4, Joe Capitosti 4 1-2 9, Carr 5 1-2 11, Dellapenna 4 2-2 11, John Capitosti 1 0-0 3, Berezansky 0 0-0 0, Citeroni 0 0-0 0, Brewer 1 0-0 2, Ireland 5 1-2 11. Totals - 22 5-8 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle12 15 8 23 - 58
Homer-Center12 2 14 25 - 53
3-point goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 4 (McCloskey 2, Fiore, Rickens); Homer-Center 4 (Carr 2, John Capitosti, Dellapenna).
Records: Bishop Guilfoyle (19-5); Homer-Center (21-3).
Officials: Jason Moschgat, Cliff Kitner, Colin McGinnis.