PITTSBURGH — If basketball is a game of runs, Shenango High made just enough of them on Saturday.
The Wildcats used quick spurts of offense in the final minutes of the first and second quarters to build a 16-point halftime lead before holding on for a 56-51 victory over Summit Academy on Saturday at Fox Chapel High School in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. The win moves the Wildcats into the quarterfinals on Friday against top-seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at a time and site to be determined.
Midway through the first quarter, Reis Watkins sank two free throws to kickstart a 13-0 run capped by a Gavin Pagley 3-pointer to turn a 6-4 deficit into a 17-6 lead after the first quarter.
“They made some runs, but then we answered and make a bigger one,” Shenango coach Bob McQuiston said. “As long as you can keep that cushion, the whole time they’re trying to battle back, battle back. Then they get it close and we got another run. We’ve been in that situation before and it kind of deflates you. We want to keep that six-to-eight point cushion and then go on another one.”
Shenango then started the 4:15 of the second quarter without scoring a field goal, but still led, 20-14. Then Wildcats’ guard Ryan Perretti started to heat up and scored eight of his team-high 18 points — two from 3-point distance — as the team quickly went on a 13-4 spurt the final 3:15 of the quarter to take a 33-17 lead into halftime.
“That’s a confidence booster for myself and my team,” Perretti said of his two long balls during the run.
When Shenango wasn’t making perimeter shots in its halfcourt offense, Watkins — who completed a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds — was pulling down a defensive rebounds and passing to Colin McQuiston, the team’s point guard and coach’s son, who unleashed 70-foot passes to a sprinting Perretti for easy transition layups. That’s a staple of the Wildcats offense and something the team stresses in practice and can implement in games with the playmaking of McQuiston, who added 12 points and seven assists.
“If Reis gets the rebound, Perretti is probably one of the fastest guys in the league if not the fastest guy,” Bob McQuiston said, “so we know if we get it to Colin, he’s going to find Ryan.”
In the second half, Summit Academy clawed its way back and cut Shenango’s lead to single digits behind five second-half 3-pointers by the Knights’ Takoma Askew, who scored a game-high 23 points. Askew and Jaleel Christian, who scored 12 points, were the only Summit Academy players in double figures as Shenango deployed a triangle-and-two defense.
Summit Academy, which played a zone defense most of the game, got as close as 52-48 with around two minutes left in the game, but Shenango was able to hold on as the Knights switched to a man-to-man look which opened up driving lanes for the Wildcats and McQuiston, who scored eight of his 12 points in the quarter.
Pagley was the fourth Wildcats player in double figure scoring, tallying 10 points, five assists and five steals. Shenango turned the ball over just eight times. The Wildcats now have another shot at OLSH.
“We played them twice,” Bob McQuiston said. “Obviously they’re a good team. They got the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL so they’re a good team. We’ll go back and look at film.”
Shenango lost twice to OLSH this season, getting routed 74-28 at home before narrowly losing 79-68 in the second meeting.
“The third time’s the charm,” Watkins said.