RICHLAND — Regardless of the game’s outcome, Saltsburg boys’ basketball coach Don Stitt drew many positives from watching his unseasoned team gain playoff experience against unbeaten Bishop Carroll on Thursday at Richland High School.
Playing with three freshmen the bulk of the game, Saltsburg kept pace with Bishop Carroll early on, only to get smothered and outscored by 35 points in the last three quarters to fall 70-28 in a District 6 Class A quarterfinal-round playoff game at the Richland High School Sportscenter.
Eighth-seeded Saltsburg, which beat Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 56-51, in the opening round of the playoffs, concluded its season with a record of 11-13.
The top-seeded Huskies (23-0) will take on the winner of the quarterfinal-round game between Juniata Valley (No. 4) and Portage (No. 5) in the semifinals at a date and place to be announced.
Bishop Carroll, the third-ranked Class A team in the state, according to Lehighvalleylive.com, won its last district title in 2011 before falling in back-to-back district championship games the last two seasons.
“They’re not just one of the best teams in the district, they’re one of the best teams in the state,” Stitt said. “I give them a lot of credit. They play like a team and they hustle, but my kids, hey, they never gave up.
“We had some seniors on this team but my younger guys gained a lot of experience tonight and I hope it’s going to carry them for the next two or three years. Remember this game.”
Saltsburg trailed by just seven points, 17-10, heading into the second quarter, but then began succumbing to the Huskies’ press and committing turnovers in bunches.
Fueled by 10 points and two 3-point field goals from sharp-shooter Brandon Martinazzi, Bishop Carroll finished the second quarter on a 25-3 run to stretch their halftime lead to 30 points, 45-15.
“I always stress to our guys, ‘Just because we don’t get it the first five or six times doesn’t mean it’s not wearing on them,’” Bishop Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said. “We got three or four steals and a quick six or eight points. Going from six to 12 in three possessions is pretty good.”
Martinazzi, who drilled a buzzer-beating jump shot at the end of the first quarter, scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.
“We came out a little sluggish off the bat, (but then) we started generating some steals in the second quarter, and then we started making some shots. We just tried to bust it open,” Martinazzi said.
The Huskies limited Saltsburg to just 13 points in the second half, including four in the fourth quarter.
Bishop Carroll held seniors and 1,000-point career scorers Steve Richards and Ian Satler to just eight and four points, respectively.
The Trojans amassed season-lows in points and field goals (12).
“Honestly, the goal was, coming in, to hopefully break the press and slow the ball down,” Stitt said. “But they’re just so quick and athletic and they got in our passing lanes and that really got us out of our game.
“They’re the best team in this district and one of the top three teams in the state and they showed why. They can go so deep, they’re so athletic, they got the height, they got the shooters, they got the role players … they’re great and I hope they represent District 6 well.”
Frankie Plowman, one of five freshmen who played for Saltsburg, scored six points.