No. 2 Vincentian Academy earns 3rd straight section title by topping No. 1 Cornell |
High School Basketball

No. 2 Vincentian Academy earns 3rd straight section title by topping No. 1 Cornell

Shawn Annarelli

Vincentian Academy’s boys basketball team won its third consecutive Section 1-A title in appropriate fashion — on its claustrophobic court where opponents can’t seem to win.

No. 2 Vincentian Academy kept its lengthy home winning streak alive Friday when it beat No 1. Cornell, 70-59, for the section championship.

The Royals (14-7, 12-2) home-court advantage for can’t be overstated — they haven’t lost a section game at their venue since 2011.

“This has been a little bit different for us compared to our last couple section championships, this one being that we have such a younger team,” Vincentian Academy coach Tim Tyree said. “There’s six returning players. The learning curve was steep for us, so I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far this season.”

The too-close-for-comfort court was the key reason Cornell (18-4, 11-3) couldn’t get into a consistent offensive rhythm, Raiders coach Bill Sacco said.

“The court size made the biggest difference,” Sacco said. “It’s just too small for us. If you’ve got size 14 shoes, you can’t shoot a 3 from the corner. The tightness bothered our guys a little bit. It hurts you sometimes, and it can help you sometimes, too.”

The Royals lost to the Raiders, 84-75, earlier in the season at Cornell.

“Coming into this week, we were really licking our chops to get an opportunity to return the loss,” Tyree said. “Their players made a lot of shots that game, so we had a lot of respect for them coming into this game. We really wanted to come to play, especially on defense.”

The game was tight through halftime with Vincentian Academy ahead 27-26. There were four lead changes to start the second half.

Vincentian Academy forward Angelo Reeves put a stop to the back-and-forth scoring spree with three consecutive buckets that sparked a 15-2 run for the Royals.

Reeves led Vincentian Academy with 18 points, including 13 in the second half. Nate Cullo had 16 points, and Alex Griggs added 13.

“I just think I had to take it to another level for my team,” Reeves said. “At the beginning of the game, I started slow and I wasn’t feeling like myself. My coaches gave me a little talk at halftime, and that got me motivated to take my game to another level.”

Luke Piccolo led Cornell with 24 points, but Vincentian Academy made Kaden DiVito a non-factor after he scored 36 points in the first matchup.

DiVito was held to 14 points, though Sacco said a hand injury hindered his shot.

“I just don’t think Kaden could get into a good shooting rhythm with that (wrapped hand),” Sacco said. “We tried to take it off to see if that would be better, but it hurts him a lot when he’s catching the ball. He did his best to fight through it, and now he has some days off to feel better and rehab it.”

Each team’s coaches expect Vincentian Academy to be the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs.

Sacco said Cornell could be the second seed, which would potentially set-up a rubber match between the two teams in the championship game.

“I’d like to see a third game in the finals if possible,” Sacco said. “I do think we’ll be on opposite ends of the bracket. I think they’ll be seeded one, and we could be two. We’re 18-4, so we’re not schlubs. We can play. This just wasn’t one of our better nights, but we’ll get there.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.