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Young Mustangs succumb, but prove they’re on rise

Rainey hits 1,000

GREENSBURG — For the entire first half of its District 6 championship game against Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic and most of Wednesday’s first two quarters against Our Lady of Sacred Heart, Portage proved it could hang with two of the top eight Class 2A teams in the state.

The Mustangs just have to work on finishing.

After trailing by just seven to the WPIAL champions at halftime, OLSH ran away from Portage in the second half for an 84-56 triumph in the second round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at Greensburg-Salem.

“These kids have continued to grow and work,” Portage coach Travis Kargo said. “Now it’s up to them. If they want to put the time and effort in, I think we’re close to getting to that next level. But you can see by the scoreboard tonight that we aren’t at that level yet.”

Junior Preston Rainey was the bright spot for the Mustangs as he broke out of a slump and scored 27 points, including the 1,000th of his career.

“It was a big game, and I had to finally step up,” Rainey said. “I haven’t stepped up in big games over the past year, so I was happy to step up this game.”

Kargo said he’s been pleased with Rainey despite the forward not putting up eye-popping numbers every night.

“Preston really came to play tonight,” Kargo said. “He took it as a challenge. He wasn’t satisfied with a couple things the past couple games. He’s worked hard to get to this point, and he’s earned that 1,000 points. He’s unselfish and plays the game the right way.”

Our Lady of Sacred Heart jumped out to a 13-4 lead early, and Portage had trouble just bringing the ball up the court against OLSH’s full-court press.

But when that press got a little too tight, it allowed the Mustangs to get back into the game. The Chargers were whistled for foul after foul, and before long, the press retreated and Portage started to take over the game.

Rainey’s free throws with 3:07 to play in the half brought the Mustangs to within two points, but 3-pointers from Jake DiMichele and Dante Spadafora allowed OLSH to carry a seven-point lead into the locker room.

The Chargers started the second half on a 14-4 run that basically put the game away.

“We were in foul trouble in the first half,” Our Lady of Sacred Heart coach Mike Rodriguez said. “Three or four minutes into the game, we had 10 team fouls. We were just playing overly aggressive. We had to make adjustments and take off our pressure and go back in a zone. We weathered the storm and went back to our pressure in the second half.”

DiMichele scored a game-high 31 points, and Spadafora added 22 points. Matt Rees also had a big offensive night for the Chargers with 17 points.

“Their speed and quickness presented us problems, and we didn’t handle it very well,” Kargo said. “It’s hard to simulate that type of speed in practice, and it took us too long to adjust to it. When we got down, we tried to take some chances, and they made us pay on every chance we took.”

Despite seeing their season end Wednesday, Kargo took plenty of positives away from the Mustangs’ year. Portage will not lose any seniors to graduation.

“Not many teams win 21 games,” Kargo said. “At Portage, I don’t think it has been done since 1990, so we’ll hang our hat on that, take a couple weeks off and start getting ready for next year.”

PORTAGE (56): Rainey 9 6-10 27, Zatek 0 0-0 0, K. Kargo 0 0-0 0, Claar 4 1-1 9, Miller 3 0-1 6, M. Kargo 2 0-0 5, Miko 3 0-0 6, Gouse 0 0-0 0, Scarton 0 0-0 0, Dobrowolsky 1 0-0 3. Totals — 22 7-12 56

OUR LADY OF SACRED HEART (84): DiMichele 13 0-1 31, D. Spadafora 8 4-4 22, Rees 7 3-5 17, Olexa 1 0-0 2, Kocent 1 1-3 4, Gartley 1 0-0 2, R. Spadafora 1 0-0 2, Conner 1 0-0 2, Polar 0 0-0 0, Bannon 1 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Smigiel 0 0-0 0. Totals — 34 9-14 84

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Portage 13 11 15 17 — 56

OLSH 17 14 31 22 — 84

3-point goals: Portage 5 (Rainey 3, M. Kargo, Dobrowolsky); Our Lady of Sacred Heart 8 (DiMichele 5, D. Spadafora 2, Kocent)

Records: Portage (21-7); Our Lady of Sacred Heart (26-1).

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