By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — Boston’s Fenway Park has its Pesky Pole, and Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House has “Palmer’s Place.”
Deep corner … under the auxiliary scoreboard and balcony … Jerrod Palmer provided the pivotal points.
Palmer pumped in a corner triple with 2:19 remaining in overtime, providing West Middlesex High boys basketball team with a lead it never relinquished, and the Big Reds rode it to a 55-50 overtime win over Jeannette Saturday night.
“I always feel comfortable shooting from the right corner, it’s my favorite spot to shoot on the court,” related Palmer, after the Big Reds’ rolled to their 19th consecutive win, this time in the PIAA Class AA playoffs opener.
A year ago Palmer provided the margin of victory in a 41-38 OT win over Kennedy Catholic for the District 10 Class A championship. Palmer was positioned in precisely the same spot.
The 4th frame afforded 2 ties and 3 lead changes. But with the team tied at 43 in the closing seconds of regulation, Palmer, after receiving the inbounds pass, misfired on a corner jumper – from the other side of the floor.
Getting another opportunity, he didn’t miss.
“I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hand,” Palmer pronounced.
“’ Big-game Jerrod,’” smiling West Middlesex mentor Chad Mild mused. “In the District 10 championship last year he hit a big shot, and he hit a big one for us (Saturday) night.
“Jeannette came to play us,” praised Mild. “I thought we had the toughest draw in the first round, but our kids rose to the occasion.”
In the 4-minute extra session Palmer’s partners provided the insurance, as Trey Staunch and Matt Dogan evenly divided a half-dozen free throws.
Staunch stoked West Middlesex (23-3) with a game-high 24-point, 8-rebound performance, scoring 16 during the game’s final 20 minutes. Dogan deposited a 16-point, 8-rebound, 3-assist line.
A pair of turnovers in the 1st frame’s closing seconds cost the Big Reds as Jeannette jetted to a 9-7 lead, but fueled by Ryan Dogan’s dagger from the deep corner and 6 and 4 points, respectively, from Staunch and Matt Dogan, Middlesex mustered a 24-19 margin at intermission.
With Julian Batts and Duke Brown bucketing 5 and 4 points, respectively, the Jayhawks hovered within 35-32 entering the final frame.
A trio of ties and similar number of lead changes highlighted the 4th quarter. Staunch stuck both ends of a 1-and-1 bonus free-throw situations with 2:31 remaining in regulation that knotted the count at 43, where it remained until OT.
West Middlesex will meet Bishop McCort – a 62-43 winner over Burrell – next week at a site and time to be announced. Mild admitted he was relieved, yet elated.
“Jeannette’s very good team. What were they, ranked third in the state at one time. I think they’re among the top five on this side of the state, so that was a quality win for us, but we’re just gonna move forward,” Mild said.
“It’s not gonna get any easier. Round by round, it’s gonna get harder and harder,” Mild admitted. “I think the biggest thing we’ve got going for us, we’ve had the target on our back since the beginning of the year, we’ve been in overtime games, and the experience is showing through.”
Batts and Brown bucketed 16 and 13, respectively, for the Jayhawks (18-6).
PIAA CLASS AA PLAYOFFS
JEANNETTE 9 10 13 11 7 32
MIDDLESEX 7 17 11 8 12 35
JEANNETTE — Batts 7-2-2-16, Miller 0-0-0-0, Sunder 3-0-0-6, Edmunds 3-1-2-8, Wise 0-0-0-0, Brown 2-8-9-13, Elliott 1-1-2-3, Altieri 0-0-0-0, Canady 1-0-0-3. 3-pt. goals: Edmunds 1, Canady 1. Totals: 17-12-15-50.
WEST MIDDLESEX — M. Dogan 5-6-8-16, Palmer 1-0-0-3, Staunch 5-14-16-24, Jancso 2-1-3-5, Klaric 2-0-0-4, Porterfield 0-0-0-0, Ginther 0-0-0-0, R.Dogan 1-0-0-3. 3-pt. goals: R.Dogan 1, Palmer 1. Totals: 16-21-27-55.