CLAYSVILLE – McGuffey could get used to this.
The Highlanders fired away early and often Tuesday night, and that’s a big reason why the Highlanders didn’t have much of a problem winning only their second WPIAL boys basketball playoff game in school history.
Behind 26 points from Ethan Janovich – 18 of which came from beyond the arc – the 15th-seeded Highlanders took care of the 18th-seeded Mohawk Warriors, 64-35, in this WPIAL Class 3A preliminary round matchup.
McGuffey (10-6) has made significant strides in the past five seasons under coach Mike Fatigante, with this being its fourth playoff appearance in five years.
The previous four trips, however, lasted just one night.
That won’t be the case in 2021, and Fatigante sees even more progress in the days ahead.
“I think we’re still getting better,” Fatigante said. “We have a really young team, and I think tonight you saw the potential that we have shooting the ball.”
McGuffey did trail 12-11 after the first quarter but outscored Mohawk (3-20) 18-6 in the second period and cruised from there. Along with Janovich’s 26, Christian Cipoletti added 13 points.
The Highlanders were 10-for-16 from outside, and for Fatigante, it was just a matter of cashing in on opportunities.
“All season long, we’ve gotten open shots,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making them, and tonight we made them.”
Janovich was 6-for-8 from three-point range, and his coach didn’t understate the senior’s significance.
“In order for us to be good, he has to be good,” Fatigante said. “He was really good tonight, and that’s what we expect out of him every night. Hopefully, we get that again on Thursday.”
Janovich had a good feeling that it was going to be his night by the time the time warmups were over, and it carried over into the game.
“I was hitting everything I took, and after the first one went in, they just started falling,” Janovich said.
The Highlanders have had an up-and-down season to this point, but one thing that has been constant is their defense. McGuffey allows just under 43 points a night and has given up fewer than 40 in 10 of its 16 games. Tuesday night was business as usual on the defensive end, and crisp passing and shooting on the other side were a compliment.
“We had really good ball movement tonight, and we were about to get the shots we wanted,” Janovich said.
With almost eight seasons complete, Fatigante’s time at McGuffey has seen some ups (19 wins in 2016-17) some downs (0 section wins the year before), and minimal playoff success, with the only WPIAL playoff win coming against Valley. The Highlanders also beat Clearfield in the PIAA playoffs that year.
Tuesday’s win was a start, Highlanders look to add more positive pages to their playoff history book Thursday night. The assignment will be much more difficult than taking on a three-win team, however. The Highlanders will be at second-seeded Neshannock. Tipoff is 6 p.m.
“I think this is only the eighth time McGuffey has made the playoffs,” Janovich said. “I’ve been here for three of them. We’ve had some great teams, and I feel like this one is really coming along right now.
“I told the guys ‘enjoy it tonight.’” Fatigante said. “We’ll worry about Neshannock tomorrow at practice, but I’m just really happy for the guys. They got to experience it, and we’ll worry about Neshannock when we wake up tomorrow morning.”