In today’s “When Sports Were Played,” we go back to a game played exactly 10 years ago, March 27, 2010, when South Fayette upset Strawberry Mansion to win the PIAA Class AA boys basketball championship.
STATE COLLEGE – When Tyler Henry spotted Mike Lamberti drive toward the basket, a quick decision turned into the biggest two points in the history of South Fayette High School basketball.
“Crash the boards. We’ve been missing layups all day,” Henry said. “It was a good choice.”
Lamberti’s layup clanked violently off the rim and Henry, probably the shortest player on the court during the final seconds of South Fayette’s PIAA Class AA championship game against powerhouse Strawberry Mansion, collected the rebound.
With an open look on the low block, Henry scored with 25 seconds remaining for the game-winning points as South Fayette shocked Strawberry Mansion, 49-47, Saturday afternoon at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center.
“I thought I had a good look underneath, but I threw it up short,” Lamberti said. “I looked back and saw Tyler with a wide open look. When he made it, I actually thought it was the end of the game for a second.”
The Lions (23-5), in a tightly contested finish for the first time in nearly two months, still had some defense to play. Against a team as talented as Strawberry Mansion (28-2) from District 12, those final seconds weren’t going to be easy.
“The longest 10 seconds of my life,” said Lamberti, who had 17 points and six rebounds.
The primary goal was to keep Devonte “DJ” Newbill, a 6-4 shooting guard and Marquette University recruit, from getting an open look at the basket.
When you consider Newbill had about one open look all day because of the defensive efforts of juniors Josh Patterson and Christian Brumbaugh, the Lions loved their chances.
“When I was running back on defense, all I could think of was if we got one more stop, we’d be state champs,” Henry said.
Strawberry Mansion coach Gerald Hendricks called timeout with 9.7 seconds remaining and ordered a play designed for Newbill, who made just five of 13 shots. Newbill drew a double-team and the ball went to Khalil Meadows, who was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter after he appeared to stomp on Pat Zedreck following a hard foul by Zedreck.
Meadows drove into the lane but his short jumper missed and Brumbaugh grabbed his seventh rebound of the game.
“It came down to a rebound and (Brumbaugh) is a bear on the boards,” South Fayette coach Rich Bonnaure said. “I did tell them in the huddle, that if it came down to a final shot, we’d get the rebound.”
They did, and the celebration was on.
“I’m lost for words. This is hard to believe,” said Zedreck, whose consistent dribble penetration through Strawberry Mansion’s defense along with 17 points and five assists keyed South Fayette’s deliberate offense.
“The closest this team ever came before was the quarterfinals (in 2002) and a lot of guys on that team have followed us. They were telling us that there’s nothing better than being No. 1 in the state.”
As key as Henry’s putback and the defensive stand were during the final seconds, a lot went into the first PIAA team championship of any kind in South Fayette’s history.
Zedreck not only handled the quicker Strawberry Mansion guards with relative ease, the Lions’ point guard often found open paths to the basket. He made five of nine shots, and a couple of the misses led to offensive rebounds.
“When we watched them on film, we noticed they weren’t good on help-side defense,” Zedreck said. “On the first play of the game, I was surprised how easy I got to the basket. I thought someone would come out of nowhere and block my shot into the third row.”
That never happened.
Strawberry Mansion, which got 10 points and 19 rebounds from Jamal Jones, blocked one shot. South Fayette blocked eight with Mike Burroughs swatting four.
The Lions’ defense, which keyed their postseason run, was there throughout the game.
Strawberry Mansion shot 18-for-53 (34 percent) and Newbill was limited to 15 points.
The Knights were held to a season-low point total.
“So how do you slow somebody down? By holding them? By fouling them? By doing what?” a frustrated Hendricks said. “We knew they were a good rebounding team so we expected that, but it happens.”
What Strawberry Mansion didn’t expect was a competitive game from a team that wasn’t supposed to hang with them.
The score was tied 13 times and there were nine lead changes. Neither team led by more than six points.
“The guys thought they had a chance if nobody else did,” Bonnaure said. “You don’t come out of District 7 in Double-A, where there’s 40 or 50 teams, and not be good. We played a lot of good teams – maybe not as good as teams as they played – but we played quick teams, big teams. We played them all.”
Until South Fayette was the last team standing.
“The whole bus ride on Friday night, we said we didn’t come all the way up here to lose,” Lamberti said. “We didn’t care what the papers said and how we weren’t supposed to have a chance. It was this Cinderella team against this powerhouse team from Philly.
We knew we could hang with these guys and we knew we were just as good as them. We proved we could hang with them and we proved we could beat them.”