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March 8, 2014

Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener

- — Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.

But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.

“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.

The Steelers were shaky from the free-throw line (9 of 14) — particularly in 1-and-1 closing-seconds situations — were outrebounded 31-24, and were victimized by Dustin Sleva, who posted a game-high 23-point, 16--rebound, 5-assist monstrous Montour line.

However Farrell forced a pair of Montour miscues in the game’s final 1:50 and converted on both occasions.

“I wish we had a couple possessions back there,” Kaufman confided. “That’s basically summing up the game right there. Early in the game I thought it was them offensive rebounding ... then late in the game I think the turnovers really bit us in the butt going down the stretch.”

Following the first Montour miscue Malik Miller’s right-wing triple — courtesy of Chris James’ pass — forged Farrell to a 57-54 lead, snapping the last of 8 deadlocks and 9 lead changes.

Thirty-seven seconds later the last of the Spartans’ 15 turnovers resulted in James’ drive down the lane, staking the Steelers to a 59-54 lead with 66 seconds left.

During the game’s final 37.6 ticks, however, Farrell’s near-fatalistic foul-shooting almost cost it. James and Miller missed the front end of bonus situations with 37.6 and 12.5 ticks to play. With 16.9 seconds Tyrone Archie annexed the front end, but missed the back side.

Ultimately, Montour marksman Joshua Randall — who rifled in a dozen points, including 2 treys — misfired from the left wing’s 3-point line. After gathering in a long, loose-ball rebound Devon Johnson’s attempt at a trey from the opposite wing was waved off, having occurred after the buzzer.

“I thought we started the game off a little too anxious and broke our offensive rhythm down by tryin’ to do too much too fast,” Shannonhouse assessed. “ ... Once they settled down, we started to play; but once we got the lead, we relaxed.

“It was typical, inexperienced type of basketball play — at this level,” Shannonhouse said. “But you’ve got to consider, Montour’s been winning and being in this position for a long time, and it showed. They were well-disciplined, excellently coached, and the big kid (Sleva) was unbelievable.

“We were lucky to get out with this one, no doubt about it,” Shannonhouse admitted. “I thought our athleticism played a big role ... we hurt ’em with the press a little bit.

“But all in all, we’ve just gotta thank God for the win ... no doubt about it, we were blessed to get the win,” Shannonhouse admitted.

In the last 3 years Montour made 2 appearances competing for the PIAA pinnacle, losing twice to Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti. The Spartans also advanced to the statewide semifinals during that span.

Sometimes it seemed the Steelers (23-3) were the hunted and Montour (16-9) the hunter.

“I wouldn’t call them the underdog; I think that’s more a product of what we’ve done the last few years,” Kaufman said. “I know there’s thirty-two teams left (in each class), and everyone you play is gonna be really good. So we just kind’ve tried to prepare the best we could with who we are and how (the Steelers) play.”

The Spartans spurted to an early 18-10 edge. However the Steelers surged to a 12-2 spree, beginning with Clifton McNair’s feed to Ike Jones at the 1st-quarter horn, forging Farrell within 18-14. The Steelers sprinted ahead 26-20 with 3:40 remaining in the 2nd stanza, but Montour mustered a 29-28 margin at intermission on Randall’s right-wing triple.

With McNair and Miller mustering 6 and 5 points, respectively, and foul-plagued Jamel Brown bucketing 4, the Steelers secured a 48-38 lead with approximately 58 seconds remaining in the 3rd period.

But Montour embarked on a 9-0 run. When Sleva slid a baseline pass to Kyle Kutchman 14 seconds into the 4th frame, the Spartans surged within 48-44.

With 4:43 remaining Montour mustered a 54-52 lead on Randall’s drive, but Ike Jones’ rebound and feed to James 19 seconds later knotted the count at 54.

For Farrell, Miller mustered a team-high 18 markers, tossing in 4 from beyond the arc; James and Jones joined in with a 13 and 12 points, respectively, and Archie annexed a team-high half-dozen rebounds. Also, sixth-man McNair mustered an 8-point 4-rebound, 2-assist contribution. James and Miller split a half-dozen assists.

“The one thing about us, I think we’re beyond the panic stage,” Shannonhouse said. “Yeah, we got a little excited at the beginning of the game because guys want to contribute, and they want to win the game early. But once they settled down, there’s no more panic. They know how to get out there and win games.

“I think the District 10 playoffs were unbelievably valuable for us as far as those close games were concerned,” Shannonhouse continued. “So we were able to handle pressure situations, especially against an experienced team like Montour.

“But, again, I can’t emphasize it enough,” a relieved Shannonhouse said. “We do thank God for the win, man. This was a big one! We could’ve very easily lost this one ... it was just a blessing to get out, and I can’t reiterate that enough.”

Up next for Farrell, a blast from the past: Uniontown, an 87-54 winner over Punxsutawney. Site and time for next Tuesday night will be announced.

Notes: Farrell finished 23 for 44 from the floor (52.2 percent), led by Miller’s 7-for-13 marksmanship and James’ 6-for-14. Montour made 24 of 53 attempts (45.2) and the Spartans shot only 5 free throws. ... The Steelers made 10 miscues. ... Brown and Kutchman were DQ’d on fouls.

———

PIAA PLAYOFFS

1st ROUND

MONTOUR    18    11    13    15    57

FARRELL    14    14    20    12    60


MONTOUR — Sleva 10-23-23, Harbaugh 2-0-0-5, Randall 5-0-0-12, Kutchman 4-0-0-9, Johnson 2-1-2-7, Bevan 0-0-0-0, Labrie 0-0-0-0, Elam 1-0-0-2. 3-pt. goals: Randall 2, Johnson 2, Kutchman 1, Sleva 1. Totals: 24-3-5-57.

FARRELL — Burns 0-0-0-0, Brown 3-0-0-6, Jones 2-8-10-12, Archie 1-1-2-3, James 6-0-1-13, Miller 7-0-1-18, McNair 4-0-0-8, Holloway 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Miller 4, James 1. Totals: 23-9-14-60.

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