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Gorman: Constantino clutch for NA

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, February 26, 2015 10:03 p.m
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
North Allegheny's Cole Constantino drives past Bethel Park's Jacob Dixon to score in the fourth quarter during WPIAL playoff action Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at North Hills High School.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
North Allegheny's Keegan Philips (right) hugs Cole Constantino after Constantino hit the game winning shot to beat Bethel Park during WPIAL playoff action Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at North Hills High School.

Cole Constantino knows the disappointment of defeat in the WPIAL semifinals, so he did his best to avoid an encore.

“I kept it in back of my mind that this is my last year, my last chance, so I had to make it count,” Constantino said. “I knew I needed to step up in order for us to get the win.”

The North Allegheny senior guard, who averages 23.3 points, has come through in the clutch in leading the top-seeded Tigers (23-2) to the WPIAL Class AAAA championship against No. 2 Chartiers Valley (22-3).

“He does everything for them,” Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell said. “He can shoot, handle it, he’s strong and he can rebound and defend. That’s why he’s one of the better players in the WPIAL right now. He’s very versatile and very valuable to that team.”

As valuable as anyone in the WPIAL, especially with the game on the line. Constantino called hitting the winner with 1.7 seconds left against Bethel Park in the quarterfinals “exhilarating.”

Constantino made it count at the charity stripe Thursday night, sinking 15 of 15 free throws in scoring 20 points in a 71-44 victory over Fox Chapel.

“He’s dangerous because he can shoot it or drive it,” North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said. “He’s a physically strong kid, so he can score through contact and gets to the line a lot. When he does, he shoots it at 90 percent.”

Constantino knows he needs to perform at 100 percent against Matty McConnell and the Colts, a challenge he eagerly accepts.

“I think so, and I can’t wait for it,” Constantino said. “I’ve been wanting to go head-to-head with Matty and Chartiers all year.”

Constantino has his chance. Now, he needs to make it count.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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