HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: Saltsburg moves on, faces top seed next
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Saltsburg started its season against Bishop Carroll, and the Trojans are certainly hoping their season isn’t going to end against Bishop Carroll.
The eighth-seeded Trojans beat Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 56-51, on Monday night in a District 6 Class A boys’ basketball first-round playoff game at Hollidaysburg Area High School. With the win, Saltsburg advanced to the quarterfinals to face top-seeded and unbeaten Bishop Carroll at a site and time to be determined.
“The kids, I’m sure, are thinking about it, and as a coach, I sure do,” Saltsburg coach Don Stitt Jr. said of the next game. “We scrimmaged them at the beginning of the season, and we went up and scouted them. We know who they are. They’re big and tough, but at any given time at any given moment in a game, you can pull it out. You never know.”
The Trojans (11-12) pulled out a win Monday in a game that seemed it could’ve been decided much earlier. Saltsburg played tight defense and held Saint Joseph’s, the No. 9 seed, to just 11 points in the first half.
“We’ve been having trouble knocking shots down all year, and that allows teams to sit back in that zone defense,” Wolves coach Richard Ciambotti said. “We played with a lot of energy in the second half, but we dug ourselves way too big a hole to get out of.”
Steve Richards was a big part of that, posting a double-double for the Trojans with 22 points — 17 through three quarters — and 12 rebounds. Ian Satler added 18 points. The Wolves buckled down on the pair later in the game, but it was too late.
“Give them credit, they battled back,” Stitt said. “But our leadership with Steve and Ian, they didn’t back down, and I’m proud of that. Obviously, everybody knows coming in that they’re our go-to guys. They’ve been there, and they’ve done it. They’ve been starters for four years now, and (Saint Joseph’s) made an adjustment in the second half.”
“They started pressing us in the second half and made us slow up our game,” Richards said. “It just worked out in the end. Luckily, that lead we built early on stood up.”
The Wolves pulled to within two in the fourth quarter, but Saltsburg converted six straight free throws to put the game out of reach.
Saltsburg’s main focus on defense was to stop sharp-shooter Stephen Beattie from getting his hands on the ball. He managed just one point in the first half. Kahsim Buey scored 17 points to lead Saint Joseph’s and Beattie finished with 14.
“Clearly we’re not going to shoot anybody out of the gym,” Ciambotti said. “That’s just not our game. Stephen’s a great shooter, but we need more balance. We need more guys to knock down shots or people are going to shut us down.”
Last season, Saltsburg lost to Glendale in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 first-round game, so the Trojans were anticipating a close matchup with the Wolves, who are new to District 6 this season.
“When it’s an 8-9 game, you expect that, and to be honest, I really didn’t know too much about them,” Stitt said. “Nobody does, really. You just have to be ready. Last year, we were on the short end of that game, and we got some experience and pulled through tonight.”
Now, the Trojans must prepare for Bishop Carroll (22-0), which is the No. 3 team in the state.
“We know what we have coming up,” Richards said. “Of course we’ve thought about it. They’re one of the best teams in the state, but that’s why you play the game. We’ll just go in there, give it all we’ve got and see what happens.”