FRANKLIN, Pa. – In a game with the intensity and talent level of a semifinal contest, Ellwood City rallied from 15 down in the second half to end Franklin’s season with a 65-63 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3A boys playoffs at a sold-out Franklin High School.
“This was the perfect storm for us,” Franklin head coach Jason Fulmer said. “We had them in our gym. That is probably the best team in the WPIAL. We had a chance to capitalize, and we let it slip away.
Ellwood City (22-3), who was the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs but lost in the quarterfinals to become the “sixth-place” team out of the WPIAL trailed 45-30 following a 3-pointer by Franklin’s Luke Guth with 6:31 to play in the third quarter.
But the Wolverines needed just over a 2 ½ minutes to get back in the game going on a 12-0 run that ended on back-to-back 3-pointers by Steve Antuono, who scored the final eight points of the spurt.
That run closed the deficit to three, 45-43, with 3:56 to play in the third quarter, and although Guth temporarily halted the bleeding with a 3-pointer at the 2:35 mark, Ellwood City took the lead, 53-51, on two free throws by Alexander Roth with 1.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I felt it created some questions marks in guys who haven’t had question marks,” Jason Fulmer said. “Just purely on the athleticism and stuff like that. They said, oh wow, and we kind of took a step back.
The lead then changed hands three times in the first 3 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter before the Wolverines took the lead for good, 57-56, on a basket by #35.
A big reason Ellwood City was able to grab the lead for good was that Franklin couldn’t take advantage of six straight turnovers by the Wolverines to open the fourth quarter.
“We were trading turnovers or missed buckets,” Jason Fulmer said. “I definitely had some concerns after that first two, three minutes where, hey look, we are getting our opportunities and we haven’t capitalized on it. Guys got some good looks. A couple of good looks rattled out. We just couldn’t find it in the hole.”
The Knights (23-3) were 2-for-5 from the field, 1-for-2 from the line, and also had a turnover of their own in the first three-plus minutes of the quarter.
“I thought we got a little quick on offense,” Jason Fulmer said. “We didn’t make them work a little bit. I think that is part of the credit to Ellwood City because they got us turned up a little bit more than we expected and what we have seen in a while. Credit to them. There wasn’t anybody that wasn’t completely under pressure. I feel like that leads to a little too quick. One shot, pass that kind of deal. Typically, we get away with it because we shoot it pretty good. We just didn’t get that momentum.”
Despite shooting just 4 of 14 in the fourth quarter and 8 of 27 in the second half with 10 second-half turnovers, Franklin was still within one, 59-58, following a bucket inside by Damon Curry with about 2:15 to play.
But Antuono hit a pair of free throws to get the lead back to three, 61-58, and following a missed free throw by Easton Fulmer with 1:42 to go, Alexander Roth hit one of two charity shots to push the Wolverines’ advantage to two possession, 62-58, for the first time in the game with 40.4 to play.
Joseph Roth and Alexander Roth then hit a free throw each to make it a six-point lead, 65-58 with about 20 seconds to go before two Fulmer charity shots with 10.4 to go made it 64-60.
Milo Sesti hit one of two free throws with 7.1 left to make it 65-60, but Fulmer hit a shot from just across halfcourt with 1.2 seconds to play to get the Knights within two, 65-63.
After a timeout, Franklin tipped two inbound passes by Ellwood City but couldn’t get the steal it needed.
The Knights seemed in full control of the game throughout the first half and the first 1 ½ of the third quarter.
Thanks in part to five first-half 3-pointers and 18 points from Fulmer, Franklin led 39-30 at halftime.
Fulmer then scored the first four points of the second half before Guth’s 3-pointer made it 45-30 with 6:31 to go.
“I knew Ellwood City was going to throw a lot of defenses at us,” Jason Fulmer said. “I thought the kids did a great job in the first half identifying it, capitalizing, second-chance opportunities, the whole nine yards.”
But Fulmer suffered a nasty cut on his face when he fouled Joseph Roth with 3:14 to go in the third quarter with Franklin ahead 48-42 and missed a good chunk of the rest of the quarter getting it taken care of allowing Ellwood City to take the lead.
“We had a couple of scenarios where Easton was off the floor,” Jason Fulmer said. “He had a freaking tooth go through his lip. Easton has been our point guard. We have been trying to work on a second and third point guard. Ellwood did a good job capitalizing.”
Turnovers hurt the Knights in the third quarter when they turned the ball over seven times leading directly to many of the Wolverines’ points.
“I thought Ellwood did a great job in the second half,” Fulmer said. “We jumped right out on them, and they switched over to man and kind of turned up the pressure. A couple of our off guards struggle with pressure. We had a couple of uncommon turnovers, and they got some momentum running. We lost a little bit of confidence at the rim. We shoot pretty poorly in the second half of the third quarter and never got it back in the fourth quarter.”
Alexander Roth led Ellwood City with 27 points, including 12 in the third quarter while Antuono added 20 points and Joseph Roth 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Easton Fulmer paced Franklin with a game-high 30 points.
Fulmer scores two in the first half
Curry and Guth each added 12 for the Knights, and Cole Buckley chipped in six points and nine rebounds.
Watch Guth score inside in the first half
Watch Curry drive to the hoop in the opening half
Franklin shot 24 of 51 (47.1 percent) for the game, but it was a tale of two halves. The Knights were 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) in the first half and only 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) in the second half.
Ellwood City shot 17 of 46 (37 percent) for the game but 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) in the second half after going 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) in the first half.
The game was won on the free-throw line where the Wolverines were 25 of 35 (8 of 13 in the fourth quarter) compared to Franklin’s 6 of 9. The discrepancy reflected the style of play for both teams, as Ellwood City wanted to drive the basketball while Franklin was content to shoot 3-pointers, 26 in all.
Ellwood City moves on to play WPIAL runner-up Avonworth, a 60-42 winner over District 6 third-place finisher Cambria Heights, in the second round Saturday at a time and place to be announced. Avonworth, who was the No. 8 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, upset Ellwood City, 66-55, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
ALIQUIPPA 53, BROOKVILLE 50
ALIQUIPPA, Pa. – Aliquippa rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter to knock off District 9 champion and District 5-9 runner-up Brookville, 53-50, ending the Raiders season in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3A boys playoffs.
The WPIAL third-place Quips trailed 31-16 with 5:51 left in the third quarter following the second of back-to-back baskets by Brookville’s Clayton Cook.
But Aliquippa (18-8) turned up the defensive pressure forcing 19 second-half turnovers (25 in the game) to get back into the game.
Despite the giveaway, Brookville was either ahead of tied until Brandon Bank hit a pair of charity shots with 1:11 to play giving Aliquippa, who finished the game on a 7-0 run, a 52-50 lead.
Brookville (20-4), which went to the PIAA title game a year ago, had a chance to tie the game but Ian Pete’s shot was no good, and
The Raiders did not give up the lead, though, until Brandon Banks hit two free throws to break a 50-50 tie with 71 seconds remaining. The Raiders went the final 2:21 without scoring after Ian Pete hit one of two free throws to put the Raiders up 50-46.
In the closing minute, the Raiders missed a chance to tie the game following Banks’ free throws but got the ball back with 33 seconds left after a Quips turnover. Calling a timeout with 23.8 seconds left, the Raiders inbounded underneath their own basket and Pete’s shot missed.
Quentin Good then hit a free throw to make it a 3-point game, and Brookville wasn’t able to get a shot off at the end.
Brookville led 27-16 at halftime as Aliquippa shot 4 of 17 in the opening 16 minutes.
turnovers in the second half.
D.J. Walker paced Aliquippa with 18 points, 11 after halftime, with Cameron Lindsey adding 10 points and eight rebounds.
Cook had a strong game for Brookville with 14 points and 13 rebounds with Hunter Geer, Griffin Ruhlman, and Noah Peterson each adding eight points.
Brookville shot the ball well, 18 of 32 (56.3 percent), and outrebounded Aliquppa 33-21, but had the 25 costly turnovers
Aliquippa will face WPIAL seventh-place finisher Neshannock, who beat District 6 champion Richland, 50-43, in the second round Saturday at a time and place to be announced.
SOUTH ALLEGHENY 52, SENECA 41
ERIE, Pa. – South Allegheny, the No. 4 seed out of the WPIAL, went on a 21-10 run in the fourth quarter to knock off District 10 runner-up Seneca in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A boys playoffs, 52-41.
Bryce Epps stepped up in a big way for the Gladiators (18-7), scoring 19 points, one of four players in double figures for the winners.
It was 44-41 South Allegheny after a bucket from Jacob Young, but the Gladiators rattled off the game’s final eight points.
Young had 10 points for Seneca, while Lucas Rupp had a team-high 11 and Bobby Yost seven.
Ethan Kirkwood added 13 points for SA, which advances to play WPIAL champion Shady Side Academy, a 76-47 winner in the first round overD6 No. 4 Penns Valley. That game will be on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE 56, GIRARD 32
ALTOONA, Pa. – Patrick Haigh erupted for 34 points as District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle took care of D10 third-place Girard, 56-32 in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A boys playoffs.
Haigh was on fire from deep, knocking down eight threes in the win, as the Marauders (21-6) jumped out to an 11-point lead after the first quarter and a 30-18 halftime advantage.
JJ Lehman led Girard (16-10) with 10 points, while Nate Edwards added seven.
BG advances to play District 5/9 champ Chestnut Ridge, a 69-53 winner over WPIAL No. 5 Washington. That game will be on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
PIAA CLASS 5A GIRLS FIRST ROUND
OAKLAND CATHOLIC 58, WARREN 36
WARREN, Pa. – Oakland Catholic closed out the first quarter with a 15-2 run on its way to a 58-36 win over Warren in their PIAA Class 5A girls’ first-round game.
The D10 champion Dragons (19-7) scored the first five points of the game before the Eagles, (15-10), the sixth-place finisher in the WPIAL, switched to a suffocating full-court trap defense midway through the stanza.
“We knew, we prepared actually, for both those presses and it just didn’t work,” Warren coach Lisa LaVan said. “Their quickness was way more than what I expected. And I think way more than what we expected. So, you know, hats off to them. They’re a great team and we lost to a better team and there’s no shame in that.”
Halena Hill hit a pair of threes in the first quarter for Oakland Catholic on her way to a team-high 19 points. The Eagles connected on nine 3-pointers in the game, to just two for the Dragons.
Alexa Washington finished with 12 points for the Eagles and Jordan Ingelido had 11.
Emma Ruhlman had a game-high 22 points and moved to second all-time in career points for the Dragons with 1,448. Sammie Ruhlman added eight points.
Oakland Catholic advances to the second round and a matchup with McKeesport, who was a 56-31 winner over D6-8-9 No. 2 Obama Academy, on Saturday at a time and location to be announced.
McKeesport, the third-place team out of the WPIAL, beat Oakland Catholic, 56-43, in the WPIAL quarterfinals on March 4.
CHARTIERS VALLEY 65, HARBOR CREEK 16
BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. – Helene Cowan led four Chartiers Valley players in double figures with 14 points as the WPIAL’s No. 2 seed put an end to District 10 third-place finisher Harbor Creek’s season, 65-16 in the first round of the PIAA Class 5A girls playoffs.
The Colts (25-2), jumped out to a 25-7 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
Perri Page had 12 points and Hallie Cowan and Aislin Malcolm 11 each,
Harbor Creek (15-9) was led by Samantha Zank, who scored eight points.
Chartiers Valley advances to play D6-9-10 champion Hollidaysburg, a 63-51 winner over WPIAL No. 5Greater Latrobe, on Saturday.
MOON 54, SLIPPERY ROCK 16
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Moon held Slippery Rock to five points or less in each quarter and rolled to a 54-16 win in their Class 5A girls’ first-round game.
Moon (20-5), the fourth-place finisher out of the WPIAL, connected on three of its six 3-pointers for the game in the first quarter and raced out to an 18-5 lead after the first eight minutes. The Tigers led the D10 runner-up Rockets (14-10) 28-10 at the half.
Emma Thiodorsson scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the first half. Reilly Sunday had 12 points and Olivia Logan 10 points.
Bronwyn McCoy scored all five of her points for the Rockets in the second quarter. Ella McDermott added four points.
Moon moves on to a second-round game against WPIAL champion South Fayette, a 63-38 winner over D3 No. 8 Lampeter-Strasburg, on Saturday at a time and location to be announced.