By Corey J. Corbin
Herald Sports Correspondent
SLIPPERY ROCK — The folks in the tri-cities of Jackson Center, Sandy Lake and Stoneboro had plenty to celebrate Saturday night.
With Lakeview junior heavyweight Sam Breese earning the school’s first PIAA gold medal in wrestling since Rod Wright won the last of his three straight in 1987, his classmates secured the school’s first state playoff victory with a thrilling come-from-behind 44-40 victory over WPIAL fourth seed Quaker Valley (20-6) Saturday evening in front a standing room only crowd at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.
“What a night for Lakeview,” Lakeview coach Gary Burke said, choking back tears. “Sam Breese wins a state championship down in Hershey wrestling and our kids got the biggest win in program history, so we’re excited for them. (Breese) called and made our principal Mrs. Lilly promise to tell me ‘Good Luck (Saturday) night.’ If that doesn’t scream Lakeview, I don’t know what does. Everyone in a fight together. I couldn’t be more proud to wear the red and black.”
With the win, the Sailors (22-4) will face WPIAL sixth seed Greensburg Central Catholic (23-2), who beat District 6 champion Penn Cambria 66-56, in the PIAA Western Region Quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined Wednesday.
“On the radio earlier today, they asked if this group has always been a special group and they haven’t,” Burke said. “These kids have had to work for everything they’ve gotten up to this point … Dalton, Casey, Coty. They’ve never been the most athletic or the most talented. Yeah, Dalton and Casey could shoot it a little bit when they were in elementary, but that’s it. For these guys to lead this program the way they have is absolutely phenomenal and it can’t be taken away from them. We don’t have a banner on the wall yet for this season, but no one will stop talking about this team and these four seniors with Andrew Fowler and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year. It’s a tremendous, tremendous uplifting moment for our kids.”
The victory seemed in doubt midway through the third quarter with the Quakers holding the game’s largest lead at 31-24, but Lakeview’s dynamic duo of Dalton Boggs and Casey Greggs fueled an 11-2 run to close the third with three straight three-pointers.
“Casey was frustrated during our shoot around earlier today, because his shots weren’t falling like they normally do in practice,” Burke said. “We basically had to sit him down during a timeout in third quarter and say ‘It doesn’t matter what’s happened up to this point. Live for right now. Every possession is a new possession. Go out there and have confidence and knock them down.’ He did that. When Casey hit those three’s, you could see his energy increase and our energy increase.”
The run handed the Sailors a 35-33 lead and they never trailed again.
But the fourth quarter wasn’t a cake walk.
Brandon Rice scored off a Boggs assist to put Lakeview up by four with just over a minute to go, but Quaker Valley managed to stay within striking distance on Nelson Westwood’s trey with 67 seconds left to pull the Quakers to 41-40.
After an errant Lakeview pass moments later, Quaker Valley set up for a potentially game-winning shot, but Westwood’s shot clanged off the rim and rolled out of bounds, giving the Sailors possession with 16.1 left.
Boggs was fouled off the ensuing inbounds pass and sank the first of 2 free throws, but Coty Gander was fouled collecting the rebound and calmly sank both freebies to ice the historic victory.
“What can you say about Coty Gander,” Burke rhetorically asked. “He goes and gets his butt ripped because he didn’t step in and take a charge. Then he’s the first guy to battle his butt off for that rebound and give us a four-point lead that essentially iced the game for us. Absolutely tremendous.”
Lakeview opened the game by running out to a 12-6 lead midway through the first quarter, but Quaker Valley used a 25-12 advantage over a 14-minute stretch.
The Sailors got solid contributions from seniors Boggs (game-high 16 points, 8 boards and 3 assists), Gander (10 points and 8 boards) and Greggs (6 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 3 steals).
“Everybody had their moment in the sun,” Burke said. “I can’t say enough about Zach VanDusen and his effort on (Qadir Taylor). That kid had at least 10 points in their WPIAL quarterfinal game on transition cherry picking. We got great production from Austin Rice, who came in and got us through some foul trouble with Coty on the bench. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Notes: Both teams made 39 percent of their field goals. Lakeview made 15-of-39, while Quaker Valley went 16 for 41. … Behind a combined 24 rebounds from Boggs, Greggs and Gander, the Sailors outrebounded the Quakers 34-24. … Both teams had 13 miscues, but the Sailors had 13 assists on 15 field goals. … Burke Moser led Quaker Valley with 14 points before fouling out, while Westwood had 10 markers. … Zach VanDusen had a game-high 4 assists for Lakeview.
PIAA CLASS AA PLAYOFFS
QUAKER VALLEY 11 15 7 7 40
LAKEVIEW 15 8 12 9 44
QUAKER VALLEY — Moser 6-2-3-14, Taylor 2-0-2-5, Westwood 3-2-2-1, Brown 0-0-0-0, Benard 2-0-0-4, Glenn 1-0-0-3, Conlan 2-0-0-4, Trevato 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Westwood 2, Taylor 1, Glenn 1. Totals: 16-4-7-40.
LAKEVIEW — Boggs 5-3-4-16, Greggs 2-0-0-6, Gander 3-4-4-10, B. Rice 3-1-2-7, VanDusen 1-0-0-3, A. Rice 1-0-0-2. 3-pt. goals: Boggs 3, Greggs 2, VanDusen 1. Totals: 15-8-10-44.