Mustangs continue historic run at WestPAC title
PORTAGE — With the opportunity to make history, the Portage boys basketball team would not be denied.
Hosting Shade during the WestPAC semifinals Thursday at Len Chappell Gymnasium, the Mustangs fired on all cylinders to down the Panthers, 66-38, to advance to the conference championship game for the first time in program history.
“Making history is our theme this year,” Portage senior Preston Rainey said. “This is a special year, and we’re trying to keep it going.”
Portage (17-1) allowed a Panther surge in the opening minutes but took over as the first quarter reached a close.
Led by the combination of Rainey and teammate Demetri Miller, who posted a game-high 16 points, the Mustangs overpowered Shade under the hoop and created several second-chance opportunities.
Despite the paint being crowded, the two lengthy forwards were able to plow the Panther defense and combined for 12 points in the first half.
“We were just prepared,” Miller said. “We wanted to make history, and that really drove us. We knew what we were up against with Shade, and we just executed.”
With Miller and Rainey (11 total points) drawing attention underneath, the Mustangs were gifted several open looks from deep range.
Portage connected on 10 3-pointers, including seven in the first half, to take a commanding 37-16 lead into halftime.
“We shot the ball early, and we executed,” Portage coach Travis Kargo said. “When you shoot the ball early, and with the personnel we have, it makes us tough to guard. Shade came out and battled, and our kids were prepared.”
Shade (12-6), which ran a spread offense and shot the ball almost exclusively from beyond the arc, received 28 points from Vincent Fyock.
The Panthers were without senior starters Lucas Haynes and Kaden Koleszarik, who both missed the game due to injury.
“(Portage is) a very experienced team, and we weren’t at full strength,” Shade coach Wade Fyock said. “Some of our guys were put into situations they’re not used to, and we were just outmanned.”
Vincent Fyock was difficult to contain, connecting on six treys and keeping his team alive.
But the 6-foot-0 guard cooled down in the third quarter, and with the Mustangs tightening down on defense around the perimeter, several of his shots failed to hit the mark as the Panthers compiled just two points in the frame.
“(Shade is) a good basketball team, and they’re going to make their shots. Our goal was to make them earn their shots,” Kargo said. “I think they had a couple easy looks early. After the first couple minutes, we settled in defensively, did a nice job communicating and found shooters.”
Portage, which won the WestPAC North Section for the first time in program history and was runner-up in District 6 Class 1A last season, will face Berlin Brothersvalley (20-1) Saturday at Windber High School with the WestPAC title up for grabs.
The Mountaineers won their semifinal contest with Conemaugh Township Thursday night, 71-61.
The Mustangs, who are embracing the underdog role now, hope to continue their historic run.
“This has already been a historical year, but we want to hang a banner up,” Miller said.
SHADE (38): Fyock 10 2-2 28, Mincek 2 0-0 6, Adams 2 0-0 4, Stigers 0 0-0 0, McCorkle 0 0-0 0, Collins 0 0-0 0, Becker 0 0-0 0, Kohan 0 0-0 0. Totals — 14 2-2 38.
PORTAGE (66): Miller 8 0-2 16, Rainey 5 1-2 11, M. Kargo 3 0-0 8, Claar 2 1-2 7, Miko 3 0-1 6, Zatek 2 0-0 6, K. Kargo 2 0-0 6, Gouse 1 0-0 3, Irvin 1 0-0 3, Scarton 0 0-0 0, Lawrence 0 0-0 0, Heidler 0 0-0 0, Binant 0 0-0 0. Totals — 27 2-7 66.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Shade 11 5 2 18 — 38
Portage 16 19 17 14 — 66
3-point field goals: Portage 10 (K. Kargo 2, M. Kargo 2, Zatek 2, Claar 2, Gouse, Irvin); Shade 8 (Fyock 6, Mindel 2).
Records: Portage (17-1); Shade (12-6).