All-time WPIAL boys basketball championship games No. 3: 1987 Neshannock tops Monessen in triple OT
The TribLive High School Sports Network will be counting down the Top 10 boys and girls WPIAL basketball championship games leading up to the 2018 title games March 1-3 at the Petersen Events Center.
TRIBHSSN is the exclusive audio and video home for all 12 WPIAL championship games, which will be broadcasted and video streamed live at TribHSSN.triblive.com.
Here is the eighth installment of a 10-part series ranking the top WPIAL boys basketball championship games in district history.
No. 3: 1987 — WPIAL Class A finals: Neshannock 81, Monessen 80 (3OT)
Most coaches would like to play the No. 14, No. 15 and No. 16 seed in a playoff tournament on their way to the finals. But it doesn’t work that way. It is never easy to reach the title game and then win gold. But there may have never been a more exhausting championship earned then the one captured by Neshannock more than 30 years ago. The Lancers won their quarterfinal and semifinal games in overtime, then needed not one, not two but three overtimes to claim their first boys basketball championship.
Neshannock was 20-2 coming into the WPIAL Class A title game at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Fieldhouse against a Monessen team that was 17-6 and looking for its first boys basketball district championship in nearly 70 years.
Both teams had and lost double-digit leads in regulation. The Greyhounds raced out to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter only to have the Lancers answer with 14 straight points to grab a 19-15 lead after one. With Neshannock leading 31-30 at the half, the Lancers went on a 14-2 run to begin the third quarter and take a 45-32 lead. But foul trouble, which had put Monessen in a hole early, started to take its toll on Neshannock.
The Greyhounds trailed 57-48 in the fourth but rallied to tie the game at 62-62 after Lancers starters Brett Grotefend, Kevin DeLorenzo and Mike Pakotich all fouled out within a 2 minute, 13-second span. With the scored tied at 66 and time running out, Monessen had a chance to win it, but Russell Tyree missed a layup with two seconds left and the game went into overtime.
There was little scoring in the first overtime, but plenty of dramatics. Monessen took a 70-68 lead on a baseline jumper by Russell Bright with five seconds remaining. After a Neshannock timeout, senior Bob Kwiat nailed a 19-foot jumper (pre 3-point line) as the buzzer sounded to send the game into a second overtime.
The Lancers jumped out to a 74-70 lead, but the Greyhounds responded and tied the game on a Tyree 14-footer with 17 seconds left. Neshannock junior Ricci LaRocco missed a 12-foot jumper with 3 seconds remaining and the game then began the longest contest in WPIAL history as both tired teams headed to a third overtime.
The third overtime was back-and-forth action like two tired heavyweights throwing haymakers in the 15th round. With Monessen leading 80-79, Bright missed the front end of a one-and-one and Neshannock brought the ball down the floor with a half-minute remaining. LaRocco attempted a jumper from the foul line that clanked off the rim, but the rebound went right to the Lancers’ DeLorenzo who put the rebound through with 4 seconds left. Tyree’s half-court prayer of a shot at the buzzer was nearly answered, but hit the rim and the exhausted Lancers were golden.
Kwiat scored 31 points, Ed Covert added 24 and Larocco finished with 11 points for Neshannock. Tyree pumped in 24 points and Bright had 18 points for Monessen.
Don Rebel is a TribLive High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].