No. 1 Pine-Richland boys hit triple digits, top No. 4 Mt. Lebanon in Class 6A showdown
The hoop must have seemed extra large to Pine-Richland’s boys basketball players in an offensively historic performance.
No. 1 Pine-Richland beat No. 4 Mt. Lebanon, 101-82, in a Class 6A showdown. It was the second triple-digit scoring effort in the last 15 seasons for the Rams.
“Mt. Lebanon is a great team, so this is a great win,” Pine Richland guard Greg Shulkosky said. “The past couple of games we did not play well at all, so this is a huge confidence boost for us.”
The Rams hit 36 of 60 shots from the field, an efficiency that was in response to head coach Jeff Ackerman’s challenge to the team after starting the season 1-2.
Ackerman addressed early letdowns by shaking up his starters and rotation.
“I told my seniors that what we’ve done here the last four years is very special,” Ackerman said. “It’s not a guarantee you’ll win 20 games. It’s not a guarantee you’ll do well in the playoffs. It just takes one senior class to ruin the things we’ve accomplished, because there are expectations here now.”
Seniors Dan Petcash and Shulkosky led the Rams with 26 points apiece and hit 18 of their combined 28 shots from the field, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range.
The Rams’ Kyle Polce had 16 points, and Logan Murray scored 14. Polce earned a double-double with 11 assists.
Pine-Richland appeared to put Mt. Lebanon in its rearview mirror to start the second quarter, when the Rams went on a 19-0 run in a four-minute span.
Mt. Lebanon responded by cutting Pine-Richland’s 19-point lead to four points halfway into the third quarter.
Ackerman called a timeout to break up Mt. Lebanon’s rhythm, a pivotal decision that led to a 26-11 run for Pine-Richland.
“We knew coming back from the half those first three minutes could decide if we got to a 20-point (lead) or down to six or seven,” Ackerman said. “Here they got it down to four, so we called the timeout to settle them down. We didn’t like the flow, and then we just played well.”
Jake Hoffman had the hot hand for the Blue Devils, leading all players with 30 points and five 3-pointers. Mt. Lebanon’s Blaine Gartley had 16 points, and Sean Loughran scored 13.
“We couldn’t stop (Jake Hoffman),” Ackerman said. “He did whatever he wanted to do all night. We know they have a lot of good veteran players, too.”
Mt. Lebanon’s defensive strategy played a key factor in Pine-Richland’s offensive performance.
“They wanted to play press, and we like to play fast,” Shulkosky said. “That fit right into our game plan from start to finish.”
The scheme worked against the Blue Devils for one game, but Ackerman said if the teams meet in the playoffs the Rams cannot take a rematch lightly.
“They’ve won a bunch of games,” Ackerman said. “They were the No. 1 seed last year. They’re a team to be reckoned with down the line. They will be a strong playoff team.”
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.