By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Staunch, the lone returning starter from last season’s Final Four squad said, “I agree. I think we did sneak up on people, ’cause everyone doubted us. ‘Can they defend their District 10 championship? Can they get to the state playoffs? Can they go as far as they did (in 2013).’
“That’s what we’re gonna try to prove. We’re gonna try to get our own destiny. That’s our goal this year,” emphasized the burly Big Reds’ junior post.
“That really doesn’t surprise me, ’cause we knew, internally, what we had,” echoed Middlesex mentor Chad Mild regarding graduation losses that may have had opponents overlooking the Big Reds. “It was kind’ve nice that we flew under the radar. I talked back in the fall that we thought we were comin’ in(to 2014) as underdogs.
“I think we were confident in what we had, we knew our schedule at the beginning was gonna be tough, and we think people on the outside — just looking at our record early — maybe didn’t think we’d be where we’re at. But,” Mild emphasized, “we knew where we’d be at the end.”
At Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House, Staunch had plenty of help. Point guard Ike Williams went for a career-high 21 points — converting all 6 of his 4th-frame free-throw attempts — and Staunch’s low-post partner Josh Porterfield pummeled Neshannock for a 15-point, 10-rebound twin killing. Staunch split 8 assists with Ryan Dogan and Williams added 3 more.
West Middlesex (21-5) went 25 for 54 from the floor, (46.2 percent), and led by Williams, Staunch’s 9-for-11 marksmanship and Josh Porterfield (5-for-5) the Big Reds recorded 21-for-24 sin stripe sharpshooting. Middlesex made 13 miscues, 10 during the 2nd half.
Staunch exited early with blood dripping from his nose.
“They’re a physical team, and I knew when we came in (the Lancers) were gonna be physical. I actually enjoyed every minute of it down there,” Staunch said.
“When he came off with that blood on his nose, that’s what we were talkin’ about: You gotta match their intensity, you gotta match their physicality, and,” Mild mused, “and Trey likes that, obviously. I thought Trey was superb (Satur)day night.
“People think our offense goes through Trey a lot,” Mild continued, “but it starts with Isaac getting it downcourt so we can get into our sets. Isaac is defintely one of our leaders on the floor.”
Staunch almost singlehandedly fouled out the Lancers’ front line. Tyler Haswell was DQ’d on personals and his fellow 6-3 frontliners Jimmy Medure and Matt Seltzer had 4 apiece by game’s end.
“We just couldn’t get enough stops, consecutive stops without putting (Staunch) on the line,” acknowledged 6th-year Neshannock Head Coach John Corey. “It seemed, if we got them to miss, then they were out the foul line.
“They really maximize their possessions with the style they play,” Corey said in praise of Middlesex. “It’s a very good team. They’ve got great ‘bigs,’ their guards are definitely playing really well right now, and that’s a heckava team and we wish them the best of luck.”
The 1st frame included 4 deadlocks and 4 lead changes.
Ethan Moose mustered a half court-length triple at the 1st-half buzzer, nosing Neshannock within 38-35 at intermission. Then David Burkes’ bucket 14 seconds into the 2nd half launched the Lancers within 38-37. But that was as close as they would come.
Middlesex mustered a 51-47 margin entering the final frame, but Williams went for 13 fourth-quarter points, Staunch scored 7, and Josh Porterfield produced 4 more.
For Neshannock (18-7), Burkes (15), Moose (14), Matt McKinney (13) and Haswell (10) hit for double figures. But the Lancers were outrebounded, 42-38, and Neshannock notched only 24 of 61 field-goal attempts (39.3). The Lancers turned over the ball only 7 times.
NESHANNOCK 12 23 12 19 66
W. MIDDLESEX 13 25 13 25 76
NESHANNOCK — Moose 5-3-4-14, Burkes 5-4-4-15, McKinney 4-3-4-13, Haswell 4-2-3-10, Seltzer 1-2-2-4, Medure 3-0-0-6, Giangiuli 1-0-0-2, Nuzzo 1-0-0-2. 3-pt. goals: McKinney 2, Moore 1, Burkes 1. Totals: 24-14-17-66.
WEST MIDDLESEX — Williams 6-6-6-21, Dogan 0-1-2-1, Staunch 11-9-11-31. Josh Porterfield 5-5-5-15, Christian Porterfield 3-0-0-8, Andrew Long 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Williams 3, C.Porterfield 2. Totals: 25-21-24-76.