Beaver Falls bounces CT Indians from PIAA playoffs
Dan Zambanini shoots during first-half action in Conemaugh Township's PIAA Class AA playoff game against Beaver Falls Wednesday. (Staff photo by Roger Vogel)
The Conemaugh Township Indians entered Wednesday's PIAA state playoff round of 16 Class AA boys basketball game riding a 19-game winning streak after beginning the season 4-3.
The District 7 champion Beaver Falls Tigers ended the District 5 champs streak with a 77-52 win at Hempfield High School.
Nationally recruited Tiger Sheldon Jeter led the way with a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds. The 6-foot-7 Jeter scored 12 of his points in the third quarter as the Indians (23-4) tried to come back in frame, countering nearly every bucket Conemaugh Township made.
"He is the answer for most anything that ails you," Conemaugh Township head coach Chuck Lesko said. "I couldn't be more proud of these kids. I think they showed their heart and soul tonight."
Senior Grant Speigle added, "He's so tall, but he plays and shoots like a guard so it's hard to get a hand in his face. Dan Zambanini is 6-foot-3 and all he or any of us could do was put a hand in his face."
Beaver Falls jumped out to a 7-0 lead and finished the first quarter with a 16-6 advantage.
The Tigers (27-2) drained back-to-back 3-pointers by Elijah Cottrill and Drew Cook in the second to blow open the lead 22-7. They outscored the Indians 22-14 in the second quarter to lead 38-20 at the break.
"I worried a little bit about their pressure because you can't simulate their speed," Lesko said. "I thought we just kept working. The bench kept working. They never gave up ever and if you think you can get anything more out of a group of athletes then what we got out of this group than more power to you."
Junior Dillon Boyer scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second quarter. Speigle finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Conemaugh Township opened the scoring in the third and looked to build some momentum when Josh Burns hit back-to-back buckets. Every time they got something going Beaver Falls answered. Jeff Fisher added four of his eight points in the third to start another run and pull the Indians within nine points but Beaver Falls answered again.
The Tigers outscored the Indians 20-18 in the third quarter.
They wasted little time closing out the game. They outscored the Indians 22-14 in the final frame.
Cottrill added eight of his 15 points in the final quarter. Cook also scored 15 points for Beaver Falls who advance to the state's Elite Eight.
Conemaugh Township, winners of the WestPAC and District 5, will lose a handful of seniors including 1,000-point scorer Speigle.
"I've coached these seniors since they were in junior high, " Lesko said. "They laid the foundation for what we have and I'm going to miss them dearly."
Speigle added, "We gave it our all as seniors and juniors. It's tough to swallow, but Beaver Falls was the better team. I tip my hat to my fellow seniors and our coaches. It was a great season. I hope the underclassmen can keep up the success and bring home a district title next year to keep the tradition going."
Conemaugh Township: Speigle 4 0 9, Zambanini 3 0 6, Ewing 0 0 0, Boyer 3 8 16, Burns 3 0 6, Fisher 4 0 8, Sotosky 1 0 2, Rosa 3 0 6. Totals: 21 8-10 52.
3-point goals: Speigle 1, Boyer 1
Beaver Falls: Jeter 10 5 28, Cook 5 4 15, Cottrill 6 1 15, Cancel 1 0 3, Watson 2 3 7, Miller 1 0 3, Richardson 0 2 2, Turner 2 2 7. Totals: 27 17-21 77.
3-point goals: Jeter 3, Cottrill 2, Cook 1, Cancel 1, Miller 1
CT 6 14 18 14 — 52
BF 16 22 20 22 — 77