The McGuffey High School boys basketball team came into Friday’s Class 3A playoff game against Seton LaSalle at Trinity High School with a plan to slow the tempo.
For the most part, the Highlanders executed that objective, holding the normally potent Rebels offense under its season scoring average.
In the end, however, fourth-seeded Seton LaSalle did what it was expected to do, and beat 13th seeded McGuffey, 62-50.
Despite the loss, McGuffey coach Mike Fatigante was more than pleased with his team’s effort.
“I think we outplayed them tonight,” Fatigante said. “We just ran into a team that was more athletic than us, more talented than us.”
Although McGuffey (15-8) certainly didn’t outplay Seton LaSalle on the scoreboard, Fatigante felt the Highlanders had the edge in intensity.
“I know that talentwise, they have more talent than us,” he said. “But defensively, I’m proud of our effort. They were hustling. They never quit no matter what the score was. We kept battling back.”
McGuffey’s C.J. Cole scored 24 points to lead all scorers, but he didn’t have enough around him for the Highlanders to pull an upset. Ethan Janovich (12 points) was the only other McGuffey player to score in double figures.
Seton LaSalle controlled a pretty mundane first quarter, winning the period 11-4. To put it into perspective, Emmett Harris outscored McGuffey’s entire team, scoring six points.
The second quarter opened up a little bit, with McGuffey scoring almost three-times as many points as it did in the first period. But the Rebles still outscored the Highlanders, 12-11. McGuffey stayed in the game partially because of Seton LaSalle’s struggles at the free-throw line. The Rebels made only five of 11 foul shots in the first half, and that was one example of what Seton LaSalle coach Mark Walsh felt was leaving chances on the table.
“I just thought in the first half we left a lot of plays out there,” Walsh said. “Forced some shots around the basket. Early on, we missed some free throws, and we’re usually a pretty good free throw shooting team. I think that hurt us a little bit.”
In the second half, McGuffey showed more life on offense, scoring 35 points compared to 15 in the first two quarters. But the Highlanders never truly put a scare into the Rebels, who led by 10 after the third quarter and finished with a 10-point win.
For Seton LaSalle, four players scored in double figures, with Michael Bigley scoring a team-high 17.
In the quarterfinal, the Rebels will take on Aliquippa, who beat Steel Valley tonight. Walsh saw the Quips play About a month ago, and described them as a “typical Aliquippa team” on defense.
“They have some big guys down inside,” he said. “So I think that will come down to rebounding the ball, and who handles the ball against the pressure.”
Despite the season ending without a magical playoff run, this McGuffey senior class helped turn the Highlanders from a pushover into a perennial playoff team. In 2015-16, the Highlanders went 0-12 in section play. Since then, they’ve qualified for the postseason three times in four years. Of that, Fatigante is proud,
“They came in as freshmen to a team that was probably one of the worst in the WPIAL, and over the course of their four years, they’ve taken us to the playoffs three times,” he said. “They have more wins over four years than any other class. But most importantly, they’re really great kids. I’m glad I got a chance to coach them.”