Not doing enough of the little things sinks Tussey Mtn.
By Nate Ritchey
BOSWELL — It wasn’t one or two defining runs that spelled trouble for Tussey Mountain.
It was a missed defensive assignment, a forced shot which led to a miss chance, a turnover, a missed rebound on either end of the floor. All of that added up to the Titans finding themselves facing a 15 point deficit heading into the final quarter of play against North Star.
A big run of its own to begin the fourth that cut the lead nearly in half wouldn’t be enough as Tussey Mountain ran out of fuel for the comeback in ending its season with a 71-59 loss to North Star on Friday night in District 5 Class 2A semifinal action.
“We played hard in the fourth quarter for the first four minutes,” Tussey Mountain coach Jeff Swope said. “I thought that’s as well as we’ve played defensively all year long. It was too little, too late. We got the lead down to eight, we got a timeout. We had hoped to maybe keep momentum going. We lunged after something we shouldn’t have, and we’re right back down ten.”
Down 65-50 after three quarters, everything started going right in succession for the Titans as they were able to string together a 9-2 burst, keyed by forcing turnovers, grabbing big rebounds and getting the defensive stops they needed on the Cougars.
Matthew Leonard took advantage of a Mason Reed steal by converting a layup to kick-start the run at the 7:19 mark.
After North Star’s Andy Zuchelli, who led all scorers with 29 points, hit a layup of his own, Leonard, who recorded 18 points, connected on a 3-pointer from the top.
“We’re going to have to learn to finish games out. I’m not going to tell you we have a ton of experience in that. That’s a very important part of it,” North Star coach Randy Schrock said. “They increased the pressure on the perimeter and got a couple of turnovers off of us on it. I think what we needed to keep doing was attacking the rim just like we did earlier.”
The Titans forced the Cougars into a 5-second violation on the ensuing possession, and then Devin Swope, who led Tussey with 22 points, drilled the final of his six treys at 4:59.
A 1-for-2 showing from the foul line by Reed had Tussey within 62-54 with 4:32 left in the game.
“I think we swapped baskets with them for awhile there. We don’t want to do that,” Randy Schrock said. “We had them on the ropes for a while there and they were relentless — they kept coming back.”
Zuchelli answered with a floater before a Reed hoop once again made the deficit just eight (64-56).
The Cougars’ Luke Schrock, hit a bucket and Zuchelli made two foul shots to push the lead to 12 before Leonard hit another 3-pointer to account for the last Titan points of the evening.
“I’ve told them all week long coming down here, we needed to maximize every opportunity on offense,” Jeff Swope said. “… It’s tough to climb a mountain when you dig yourself a hole.”
Zuchelli made a layup and Drew Lane followed up three straight misses from the free throw line by his teammates by knocking down 1-of-2 to set the final with 17.8 remaining.
Devin Swope kept Tussey Mountain in the game in the opening two quarters as he connected on five 3-pointers while totaling 19 points.
“The Swope boy had 19 (points) in the first half and five 3-pointers,” Randy Schrock said. “I think he kept them in the game long enough to not allow us to pull away from them.”
The Titans only lead of the game came when Devin Swope hit his first from downtown just 33 seconds into the contest to make the score 3-2. A Noah Pyles reverse layup on the next time down the floor put the Cougars up for good.
Pyles registered 18 points, including the 1,000th point of his career when he scored inside with 47.4 to go before the half that put North Star up 41-30 heading into the locker room.
“Generally, we don’t play very good defense .. We still struggle on that end of the court,” Jeff Swope said. “Defense is a work thing. Defense is all hustle — it’s all want-to. We just couldn’t get any stops.”
Tussey Mountain concluded its season at 11-12, while North Star improved to 20-3. It will battle Conemaugh Township for the championship next Friday at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (59): Berkstresser 1 1-1 3, Leonard 8 0-0 18, Rightenour 2 0-0 4, Swope 7 2-2 22, Morningstar 3 2-4 8, Reed 1 2-4 4, Gonzalez 0 0-0 0, Forlina 0 0-0 0, Henry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 7-11 59.
NORTH STAR (71): Schrock 3 2-4 8, Stevens 1 2-3 5, Zuchelli 12 2-2 29, Pyles 7 3-5 18, Biery 3 0-0 6, Lane 2 1-3 5, Weimer 0 0-0 0, Yoder 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 10-17 71.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain 14 16 15 14 — 59
North Star 20 21 19 11 — 71
3-point field goals: Tussey Mountain 8 (Swope 6, Leonard 2); North Star 5 (Zuchelli 3, Stevens 1, Pyles 1).
Records: Tussey Mountain (11-12); North Star (20-3).
Officials: Sam Zambanini, Rod Jarvis, Rick Martin.