FARRELL – Ron Faust stopped himself from telling the Washington High School boys basketball team it was in a good position at halftime.
Down by only four points against District 10 champion Sharon, there were reasons to be optimistic.
In the second quarter, Washington forced the Tigers into bad shots and turnovers in one of its better defensive quarters all season. The Prexies were also making shots, which erased an early deficit.
The confidence was there from the young Prexies as the lead went back and forth between the two teams in the final minutes of the first half.
That’s when the optimism ended.
Sharon turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and shot lights out during a 23-0 run in the middle of the third quarter that sank any hopes of an upset, defeating Washington, 63-49, in a PIAA Class 3A first-round game Saturday evening at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium at Farrell High School.
“We ran into a little funk in the third quarter with throwing the ball away,” Faust, the longtime Prexies coach, said. “That game was about turnovers. It wasn’t about possessions or who played harder. We just turned it over too much.”
The seven turnovers in the third quarter allowed Sharon (22-4) the opportunity to break out of its shooting funk and go on the huge run that essentially put the game away.
Ethan Porterfield, a 6-8 IUP recruit, made a three-pointer with 5:56 left in the third quarter and the Tigers rolled from that point. Porterfield followed his triple with a pair of free throws and three-point play after scaling over Washington (14-10) players for an offensive rebound and finish, giving Sharon a 35-23 lead less than a minute and a half later.
Porterfield scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter.
“It’s called being big,” Faust said. “It’s one of those instances that our players did what we wanted them to do. They blocked out but (Sharon) just came over top of us and rebounded the ball. We knew size was going to be a factor, and that was coupled with their talent. They are a very good basketball team.”
The Prexies quickly found out just how good when they couldn’t score for more than four minutes in the third quarter, watching its four-point halftime deficit turn into a 25-point hole, 48-23, in the blink of an eye. Camren Atallah finished the run when he made a three-pointer with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
“We relaxed after the first four minutes of the game and it impacted our offense,” said Sharon coach Zach Sarver. “We stopped moving the basketball and getting the shots we worked for in practice. We were able to score off of our defense in the third quarter and the hoop got a little bit bigger.”
Washington fell behind 15-8 after the first quarter but answered with eight consecutive points, including a pair of baskets from freshman Tayshawn Levy to take its first lead of the game, 16-15, with 4:01 left in the second quarter.
Sharon took the lead into halftime, 25-21, when Attallah made a three-pointer and Frank Shaffer sliced into the lane for a layup, both in the final minute of the first half. The Tigers opened the second quarter by missing their first six shots and committing six turnovers.
“We didn’t play well but were still up four,” Sarver said. “We felt if we picked up our urgency, like what we had to start the game, then it would help us out. We were fortunate to win today.”
Elite Williams joined Porterfield in double figures for Sharon with 11 points.
Zahmere Robinson scored 13 points for the Prexies.
“We operated all year without a point guard,” Faust said. “We don’t have a true point guard. We are also a team that has to rely on our kind of shots, shots in the paint and layups. For the most part we did that tonight. (Our players) did what I asked them to do. If there is blame to go around put it on my shoulders. I’d be happy to accept it. I’m real proud and we played until the end.”