Wilkinsburg tops Duquesne
Few basketball teams are going to be on every night.
Wilkinsburg showed that when it had to pull out a one-point victory Friday against a Riverview team the Tigers had blown out earlier this season.
“Nobody played well Friday night, as far as turnovers or shooting,” Wilkinsburg coach Art Griffiths said. “They know that. I don’t have to tell them. We shot the ball terrible, and we had way too many turnovers.”
Wilkinsburg looked more like the team that is ranked fifth by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in WPIAL Class AA in Saturday’s 70-54 non-section victory over Duquesne, ranked second in WPIAL Class A.
“They had their heads on straight tonight,” Griffiths said. “We only had six turnovers at the half tonight. Playing against Duquesne, that’s a pretty good number.”
The near-loss was on the players minds Saturday.
“We just came out excited,” Wilkinsburg junior guard Chris Cox said.
“We knew we had to come out more intense than (Friday). Today was an even bigger game. Today was a good day to be upset, so the team just came together and tried hard to win.”
Though it was a non-section game, the Tigers (19-0) had plenty of motivation, local rivalry being just a part of it.
“It’s like playing the boys across the street, just meeting up together,” Cox said. “Like a backyard game.”
It was also a chance at a quality victory. The Tigers have already clinched a playoff spot, but respect in rankings has come slowly. They moved into the state rankings, 10th in Class AA, this past week, but Griffiths said wins over good teams are key for his team. The same is true for Duquesne (16-3), which is close to clinching a playoff berth and is playing for seeding.
“It’s a big win,” Griffiths said. “They will look at that as a quality win in the committee meeting when they seed the teams. I just hope we can keep it going.”
“People don’t rank us high,” Cox said. “We just have to come out every night and contend with the teams we do play.”
Cox was a big reason the Tigers kept it going yesterday, making five 3-point shots and finishing with a game-high 27 points. Wilkinsburg made seven 3-point shots, and Duquesne made only one.
“He’s been pretty steady all year,” Griffiths said. “They didn’t shoot well form the 3-point line. That probably was the difference in the game. We made some 3s, and they made hardly any.”
Senior forward Sherman Moye was also a part of that for Wilkinsburg. The Dukes, who don’t have a player over 6-foot-2, had a hard time matching up with the 6-5 Moye, who finished with 20 points. He started fast, which opened up the outside shot.
“Sherman is a big presence,” Cox said. “He’s a good person to get a kickout from. He has a nice touch. I just tried to knock it down every time.”
Duquesne matched Wilkinsburg most of the first half, until the Tigers pulled away with a 9-0 run at the end of the second quarter and led 31-21 at the break.
Cox said defense keyed the run.
“I think our half-court zone trap kinda took them out of the flow they had early,” Griffiths said. “They just weren’t in a flow there for such a long time. That’s when we were able to build the lead. We didn’t get too many turnovers from it, but it slowed them down.”
Wilkinsburg also got two points after the buzzer for halftime when Duquesne coach Montel Staples was called for a technical foul when he walked on the court before the period ended and Cox made both free throws.
The Tigers led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter at 44-23 on another 3-pointer by Cox, but had to withstand a Duquesne rally late in the quarter.
“I kinda figured somewhere in that quarter or the fourth they would come at us,” Griffiths said. “They are too good of a team. They are not going to lay down and die. You don’t get to be 16-2 quitting.
Jerome Corbett had seven of his team’s 11 points in the late run and finished with 22. He also made Duquesne’s only 3-point shot of the game, but also missed a few when the Dukes were trying to rally.
“He’s one of the best guards in the WPIAL,” Griffiths said. “If his 3-point shot had been on … we know how good he is.”
Dan Demery was the only other Duquesne player in double figures with 11 points.
Wilkinsburg put an end to the Duquesne rally with a 10-1 run to open the fourth quarter that pushed the Tigers’ advantage to 57-39.