By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Mercyhurst Prep outscored Brookville 9-1 in the second overtime to defeat the Raiders 78-70 in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA boys’ basketball playoffs Saturday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“Those kids gave everything they had for four quarters and two overtimes,” Brookville Kevin Wolfe said. “You always hate to lose a basketball game, and I think it hurts worse to lose a close one like that than to get blown out of the game.”
A couple of clutch late shots by Brookville got the game to double overtime.
At the end of the first overtime, after Mercyhurst Prep (19-7), the third-place team out of District 10, missed five straight free throws in the final 47 seconds clinging to a 69-66 lead, Jack Huggins hit an off-balanced, desperation 3-pointer from about 24 feet at the horn to send the game to a second overtime.
“We knew we were down to that desperation shot,” Wolfe said. “That’s one of those one where we were fortunate it went in. He was pretty well off balance and kind of heaved it up there.”
Rallying at the end of the first overtime was the second time in the game Brookville rallied with its back to the wall thanks in part to poor Laker free-throw shooting.
With 1:11 to play in regulation, the Raiders (11-15) trailed by five, 61-56, before Nate Shirts, who had 28 points, 15 rebounds, seven steals and three assists, hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left to get Brookville within two, 61-59.
Luke Holland, Mercyhurst Prep’s 6-foot-9 senior center, then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 38 seconds to play, but the Lakers got the rebound forcing Brookville to foul Rocco Agnello.
Agnello, however, also missed the front-end of the one-and-one with 33 seconds to play, and the Raiders tied the game with just less than 18 seconds to play when Ben Cudworth hit a jumper from the right corner inside the 3-point arc.
“That wasn’t the shot we were looking for Wolfe said. “But Ben has a nice jump shot. He’s capable of that 12-to-15-footer. That might have been a little farther than that.”
Mercyhurst Prep had two chances to win the game at the end of regulation, but a jumper by Agnello was blocked out of bounds by Braiden Smith with 0.9 of a second left, and Chris Valimont off-balance layup as time ran off hit the side of the backboard.
But despite Brookville’s late heroics in regulation and the first overtime, the Raiders couldn’t overcome the loss of two starting guards – Tate Canavan and Taite Truman – who both fouled out late in the first overtime.
That certainly didn’t help us,” Wolfe said. “Having our guards out certainly wasn’t a benefit to us. But the kids kept battling. We just couldn’t seem to get the lead in the overtimes. We seemed to get down right away at first and were always battling back.”
Brookville announced its presence to stay in the game in the first half when it took a 34-29 lead into halftime thanks in part to an 18 of 23 performance from the free-throw line in the half that had Mercyhurst Prep coach Sean Baer not happy with the officiating.
But the Lakers, to their credit, adjusted well in the second half to the officiating and used an 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to take their biggest lead of the game, 55-46, on an Aaron Haas 3-pointer with 6:14 to play.
Brookville, though, was down but not out.
The Raiders went to a full-court press and quickly turned the game around scoring nine points in a span of 1:50 including eight in a span of 1:29 to tie the game, 55-55, on a Cudworth jumper with four minutes to play. Shirts had seven of the points during the run.
“We went into a little bit of a full-court pressure, our 1-2-2,” Wolfe said. “They just kind of turned it over, which surprised me. It bothered them a little bit, and we got some easy hoops off of it.”
The press caused Baer to call a timeout, and his team responded by going on a 6-1 spurt that gave them the 61-46 lead on a layup by Holland, who had a monster game off the bench with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocked shots, a steal and an assist.
Holland was one of four Lakers in double digits.
Nate Klein added 19 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Matt Puda had 14 points, while Agnello had 12 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Cudworth added 15 points and 13 rebounds for Brookville with Canavan chipping in 14 points, six rebounds and four assists and Huggins 12 points and six rebounds.
“We certainly were competitive,” Wolfe said. “We gave them everything they could handle. We just came up a little bit short.”
NOTES – Mercyhurst Prep will play Seton-LaSalle, the WPIAL champion, in the second round Wednesday at a time and place to be determined … Both teams ended up shooting 36 free throws with Brookville going 22 of 36 (just 4 of 13 after halftime) and Mercyhurst Prep going 20 of 36 with 30 of the charity shots after the break … Mercyhurst Prep shot 41.3 percent (26 of 63) including 6 of 18 from 3-point range with Brookville shooting 32.4 percent (22 of 68) including 4 of 17 from beyond the arc .. .The Raiders outrebounded the Lakers 53-47 but had 21 turnovers to Mercyhurst’s 16.
MERCYHURST PREP 78, BROOKVILLE 70, 2 overtimes
Score by Quarters
Mercyhurst Prep – 18 11 18 14 8 9 – 78
Brookville – 16 18 12 15 8 1 – 70
Mercyhurst Prep – 78
Rocco Agnello 4-14 3-11 12, Aaron Haas 3-13 1-4 8, Matt Puda 4-7 3-4 14, Nate Klein 6-10 6-9 19, Chris Valimont 0-3 0-0 0, Nick Evanoff 1-5 0-0 2, Luke Cancilla 0-0 0-0 0, Fred Gillespie 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Holland 8-11 7-8 23. Totals 26-63 20-36 78.
Brookville – 70
Nate Shirts 9-20 9-17 28, Tate Canavan 3-11 8-10 14, Taite Truman 0-6 0-0 0, Ben Cudworth 7-16 1-2 15, Jack Huggins 3-9 3-5 12, Braiden Smith 0-2 1-2 1, Shawn Blochberger 0-2 0-0 0, Kurt Schindler 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-68 22-36 70.
3-pointers – Mercyhurst Prep 6-18 (Puda 3-3, Klein 1-1, Agnello 1-6, Hass 1-7, Evanoff 0-1). Brookville 4-17 (Huggins 3-9, Shirts 1-5, Truman 0-2, Blochberger 0-1).