Union rallies to oust St. Joseph
BELLEVUE: The start of Tuesday’s St. Joseph-Union Area WPIAL Class A playoff game was delayed seven minutes because the main scoreboard wouldn’t work.
With the way Union guard Craig Hannon was shooting in the fourth quarter, it’s a wonder the scoreboard didn’t blow out again.
Hannon scored 18 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter as the Scotties erased a nine-point, late third quarter deficit to defeat St. Joseph, 66-60, in a first round game at Northgate High School.
Union (13-10) will enter the quarterfinal round Saturday against the winner of tonight’s game between Monaca and Carmichaels.
St. Joseph concluded an outstanding season with a 20-5 mark.
The Spartans were playing well in the third period, leading 42-33 after Josh Robinson scored after an in bounds steal with 1:43 left in the quarter.
But two crucial turnovers soon followed, turning the tide in Union’s favor.
A pair of baskets by Hannon, the second at the buzzer, allowed the Scotties to pull within 42-37.
“Late in the third quarter, we wanted to hold the ball,” said St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson. “But a traveling call, a bad pass here, a bad pass there and they capitalized.”
The turnover problem continued early in the fourth quarter as Jeff Nero canned a 3-pointer and a two-pointer to tie the game. A 3-pointer by Hannon with 6:11 left in the game gave the Scotties the lead for good.
“I caught fire, and we kept feeding off it,” Hannon said. “My teamates were finding me, and we kept on fire. Whenever you hit a shot at the buzzer, it gives you momentum.”
“I think at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter we were able to convert and change the momentum back our way,” said Union coach Mark Stanley.
Two more 3-pointers by Hannon in the next three minutes, totalling 15 consective points in one stretch to put the Scotties in the driver’s seat.
“Craig started hitting, and a credit to the guys for getting the ball to him,” Stanley said. “When you’re a shooter like him, you start to feel it.”
A pair of foul shots by Josh Robinson with 3:40 left in the game brought the Spartans to within 52-51, but Hannon continued his hot shooting.
“I told the boys our passing was our biggest asset all year,” Robinson said. “For about a four or five minute stretch our passes weren’t as crisp and we took some chances. When your biggest asset goes south on you, Union’s a good basketball team.”
St. Joseph suffered from cold shooting early on, falling behind, 13-4, early in the first quarter. In their first four possessions, the Spartans missed two shots and committed two turnovers.
But St. Joseph worked its way back as sophomore Chris Conroy found a slight gap at the baseline to beat the second quarter buzzer and tie the game at 28-all.
“We didn’t panic early,” coach Robinson said. “We haven’t panicked all year. We stayed focused and we tied the game at halftime.”
A steal by Frank Ememrling and a dish-off to Robinson put the Spartans in front, 34-28, with 6:17 left in the third period. Two free throws by Conroy and a drive on the right side of the lane by Emmerling lifted the Spartans to a 38-30 lead with 5:02 to go in the third period.
Josh Robinson, playing a solid game for a sophomore in his initial playoff outing, led St. Joseph with 25 points. Emmerling added 16.
Hannon’s 37 fell short of the all-time Class A playoff mark of 46 points in a game set by Neshannock’s Kevin Covert on Feb. 24, 1995 against Clairton.
St. Joseph shot just 2-of-16 from 3-point range. The Spartans return four starters for the 2003-04 campaign.