The WPIAL basketball playoffs are in full swing and causing their typical mayhem. Teams that have spent the past two months winning games are suddenly losing them in the most unexpected ways.

The latest casualty to the upset – according to the seedings – is the Washington boys team. Champions of Section 4 in Class 3A, the Prexies were stunned on their home court Thursday night by hot-shooting Laurel 61-54 in the first round of the playoffs.

Laurel (12-10), which finished in fourth place in Section 1, looked like anything but a middle-of-the-pack team. The Spartans shot Washington (12-5) out of its zone defense in the first half with a barrage of three-point baskets, led by 17 points in the first quarter and 18 in the second, then went to a delay game in the fourth quarter and won by making 18 free throws in the final period.

“We knew Laurel is a good team and they beat us in every phase of the game,” Washington coach Ron Faust admitted. “It wasn’t because of a lack of effort on our part. I give our kids credit for working hard. We give a lot of effort but didn’t get the results we needed on a lot of occasions.”

This was one of those nights.

Washington held only one lead, that at 3-2 after a three-point basket by Ian Bredniak. The Little Prexies finished the game 3-for-11 from behind the arc.

Laurel topped that in the first quarter. The Spartans went on a 19-1 run that included five three-pointers to build a 21-4 lead and Washington never recovered.

“We found the gaps in the zone and found open guys,” Laurel coach Ken Locke said. “They executed what we planned and played hard for 32 minutes.”

Laurel stretched its lead to 23-5 early in the second quarter but Washington battled back to within 28-16 at halftime.

When Davoun Fuse started the second half with a steal and slam dunk, Washington was down 10 and had the momentum on its side. Laurel, however, refused to buckle.

A team with a good group of guards led by Sam Haswell, who had a game-high 23 points, Laurel led 41-27 early in the fourth quarter when the Spartans went to a spread offense that looked more like an old-fashioned delay game.

“We were still looking to score. When we go to our spread, we’re looking for layups. We think we’re capable of scoring on anyone that plays us man-to-man because we’re hard to match up with.”

Washington tightened its man-to-man and trapped on the perimeter but the Little Prexies couldn’t force enough turnovers that led to easy transition baskets. Nothing came easily for Wash High as it was held to only 18 field goals and converted 15 of 26 free throws.

Tayshawn Levy, the Prexies’ leading scorer, was in foul trouble much of the night and limited to two points before fouling out.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Faust said. “At halftime, we thought we had an opportunity because we didn’t let it get away from us, so we could still make a comeback. We needed to get points in transition.”

Laurel finished with seven three-pointers. The 12th-seeded Spartans were 24 of 35 at the free-throw line.

“We saw four or five different games on video and they didn’t shoot like that,” Faust said. “Against us, they shot lights out. They were even banking them in.”

Landon Esposito had 12 points for Laurel, Marcus Haswell 11 and Bobby Dicks 10.

Brandon Patterson did his best to spark a Wash High comeback as the junior scored 18 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter before fouling out. He was the only Prexie in double figures and collected nine rebounds. Fuse had eight points and eight rebounds.

“We kept telling our guys, even back in November, that we didn’t have to be the best team on that day,” Locke said. “What we need to be is the best team in late February and March. Hopefully, we’re peaking.”

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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