MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Friday night at Meadville Area Senior High’s “House of Thrills,” Miller misfired on his initial attempt, but then “ ... shots started fallling,” he related in a subdued, almost shy, tone of voice.
Miller missed 8 games earlier this season after breaking a bone in his right -- shooting -- hand, but returned in time for the regular-season finale against George Junior Republic. During the Steelers’ trio of D-10 tourney triumphs, Miller mustered 9, then 16 and finally 19 against Girard, Strong Vincent and East, respectively. While waiting to return, however, he wasn’ pouting.
“I was just thinking about my team getting the win -- not for my personally -- but I just wanted my team to get the win, and I’m happy and excited about that,” Miller admitted. “This is my last time playing with these guys (seniors Tyrone Archie, Dewayne Burns, Ike Jones and Tionte Davis) and I like playing with them. ... I told them we were going to win, and I’m happy I got the win with them ’cause it’s my last year playing with them.”
“He’s been consistent all year for us,” assessed Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse regarding Miller. “Sometimes I think he tries to do a little too much. But, overall, he plays a heady, steady game for a sophomore, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
Essentially, it was a wire-to-wire win for Farrell (22-3), which led 17-13 at the quarter, 42-37 by the break -- as Miller made a triple at the buzzer -- and 61-54 through 3 periods.
However East (20-5) endured, rallying from 11-point deficits twice during the 4th frame. The Warriors were down 73-62 with 3:42 remaining when Miller scored from the lane. However the Warriors drew as close as 5 on a pair of occasions -- the latter at 81-76 with 5.7 ticks to play on Tyquis Johnson’s triple.
“ ... (Number) thirty was a ‘beast,’” said Shannonhouse in praise of Johnson, who jolted the Steelers for a game-high 28 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the floor and 12-for-15 free-throw marksmanship. “He just carried them and carried them. ... We didn’t have any answer for him until the second half when we tried to zone him up a little bit and take the ball out of his hands. But he had an unbelievable night.”
But besides Johnson and the more-heralded Kyree Kirkland -- who connected for 23 points -- East did not exhibit the balance displayed by Farrell. Collectively Kirkland (20) and Johnson (15) attempted more than half of East’s 60 floor shots.
In addition to Miller, Jones enjoyed a game-high 20-point, 15-rebound double-double, Jamel Brown -- who fancies his game after CP3 (Chris Paul) -- bucketed 18 points and dished out 8 assists; Chris James joined in with 19 points and 3 assists, and Archie added 9 points and 6 rebounds despite playing the final 5:37 with 4 personal fouls.
“I have more than enough scorers on my team: We have Chris James -- instant offense; we’ve got Clifton McNair -- the Swiss army knife; we’ve got Dewayne Burns -- a shooter; we have Ike -- he can snatch rebounds and put ’em back up. So I’m comfortable, I can just get rebounds,” the unselfish Archie answered.
“(Miller’s) been shooting great,” Archie praised. “He hurt his hand earlier this season, but he hasn’t lost his touch at all. He’s still got that form, keeping that elbow in and knockin’ them down.”
“These guys shot ... whew. I knew they had it in them, but seeing them with my own eyes ... man, they can shoot very, very well, so hats off to them,” praised East Head Coach Matt Jones regarding the Steelers.
Led by Jones’ 9-for-10 performance in the paint and Miller’s 6-for-14 long-range marksmanship, Farrell finished 27 for 58 from the floor. Jones was joined by Archie and Brown and McNair (4 apiece) in staking the Steelers to a 39-34 edge on the glass.
“I thought our ‘bigs’ made the difference in the game,” Shannonhouse succinctly assessed. “I mean, Ike and Tyrone just showed up (Friday) night -- they showed up and showed out -- and I couldn’t ask for better timing. They really came through, and I think that’s what made the difference in the game.
“We pulled (Jones) off to the side, and said, ‘Hey, man, you gotta show up and you gotta show up big,’ and he said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it,’ and that’s exactly what he did. Both of them showed up big.”
“I had to. The last two playoff games, I didn’t show up, but I wanted the D-10 so bad, so I just had to play hard,” Jones related. “(All of the coaches) told me to hit the boards, and that’s what I did -- accepted the challenge and got some rebounds.”
Among the many hearts broken by Miller, none moreso than Jones, who won D-10 titles as both a player (2000) and coach (2010) with the Warriors.
“My emotions are up for a few different reasons,” Jones related. “Losing the game. We fought hard, but the little mistakes that we made ... we could’ve done better. But a great team won and a great team lost. Somebody had to lose, but even though we did, we fought hard.
“ ... (The Steelers) did their job, and hopefully they go far in the (PIAA) playoffs and I hope we go far in the state playoffs,” Jones added. “Two great teams, two great programs, and we fought it out (Friday) night.”
“The purpose is to win a championship. We won our section (Region 5-AAA), we won District 10, now we’re on our way to states,” Archie said.
Brown called it the Triple Crown -- region, district and state.
Farrell will be moving from Class AAA to single-A next season, and Shannonhouse said,
“There’s a certain degree of pleasure in winning it comin’ in and winning it goin’ out. You have to take your hat off to these kids. This is exactly what one of their goals were -- to make sure that we won District 10 going out -- and they did it and I’m extremely proud of this group. I cannot emphasize how much work they put in this past summer. I’m just so proud of them, there’s just not enough words.
“And” Shannonhouse added, “I love our coaching staff (Marco Miller, Bobby Stewart and Tim Odem), they do a nice job, there’s no two ways about it. But those kids put in work -- unabelievable work -- and it paid off for them.”
Notes: James enjoys the distinction of being a 2-time D-10 titlist, having won the single-A crown last season as a member of Kennedy Catholic. He’s known as “Vegas,” owing to his origin. ... One of the officials working the game was Shenango Valley native Nick Morocco. Another Valley natIve, Tom Platteborze, worked the consolation game, won 60-59 by Strong Vincent over Oil City. ... Farrell finished with 14 turnovers, 2 fewer than East. ... Led by James’ 7-for-8 accuracy, Farrell finished 22 for 31 from the free-throw line compared with the Warriors’ 18-for-22 shooting.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS AAA
ERIE EAST 13 24 17 22 76
FARRELL 17 25 19 22 83
ERIE EAST — Kirkland 9-4-4-23, Johnson 7-12-15-28, Smith 2-0-0-4, Davis 3-2-2-8, Gates 2-0-0-4, Carr 0-0-0-0, Marsh 2-0-1-5. 3-pt. goals: Johnson 2, Kirkland 1, Marsh 1. Totals; 29-18-22-78.
FARRELL — Burns 0-0-0-0, Brown 5-6-8-18, Jones 9-2-2-20, Archie 3-3-5-9, James 4-7-8-16, Miller 6-3-5-19, Holloway 0-1-2-1, McNair 0-0-1-0. 3-pt. goals: Miller 4, Brown 2, James 1. Totals: 27-22-31-83.
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
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