SHARON — The ‘Hounds Hammer made an appearance on the hardwood Saturday night.
Renowned for its defensive prowess on the gridiron, Wilmington’s defense stood tall, forcing Keystone into 17 turnovers and 10-for-33 shooting from the field in a 42-24 PIAA Class 2A playoff win at Sharon High School.
“The one thing we practiced in the lead up to this game was turning the other team over,” Wilmington coach Mike Jeckavitch said. “We wanted to contest shots and make it really hard on them when they had the ball offensively. I thought we did a really good job of that tonight.”
The game got off to a rocky start for the Greyhounds — who made just 1 of 12 field goals and 2 of 4 free throws in the first quarter.
Keystone wasn’t much better in the early going, managing just eight points over the game’s first eight minutes.
“We were a little lethargic in the first quarter,” Jeckavitch said.”Our shots weren’t falling against their zone. We eventually were able to find some gaps and made some layups.”
Down 8-3 at the start of the second quarter, Jacob Yohman fueled the Wilmington offense with six straight points as the Greyhounds closed to within 17-14 late in the first half.
From there, it was all Tage Kelliher and Wilmington.
The Greyhounds went on a 15-2 run over the second and third quarters to open a 24-19 lead into the final quarter.
“We were in a lull for most of the first half and we just needed to get the lead,” Jeckavitch said. “I thought once we got the lead that we’d be able to play our brand of basketball and we did.”
The fourth quarter proved to be Kelliher’s personal playground, scoring 12 of his game-high 15 points and helping Wilmington turn a seven-point lead at the start of the fourth into an 18-point victory.
“Tage has been doing a great job all year,” Jeckavitch said. “He really gave us some energy in the fourth quarter, getting some steals and some easy layups. That’s the type of kid he is and he has put in a lot of work to become the player he is right now.”
While the Wilmington offense was busy putting up 24 second-half points, its defense was clamping down on the Panthers, limiting the District 9 club to just seven points over 16 minutes.
“We held them to (seven) points in the second half,” Jeckavitch said. “Any time you can do that in the state playoffs and hold a team to 24 points total is pretty impressive.”
In addition to their stifling defense, the Greyhounds hammered the glass, holding nearly a 2-to-1 advantage there (36-20). Robert Pontius led the way with 11 boards, while Colton Richards pulled down seven rebounds for Wilmington.
“All year long, we’ve done a nice job on the offensive boards,” Jeckavitch said. “We have guys willing to crash. We tell the guys with us taking jump shots and outside shots they’re going to have opportunities to grab some boards. If you’re willing to do the little things — the dirty work — you’ll be able to get some offensive boards and maybe some points off them.”
With the win, the Greyhounds (17-8) advance to the second round of the state playoffs for the second time in three years and draw District 9 champion Ridgway (23-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at DuBois High School.
Ridgway beat WPIAL fourth-seed Sewickley Academy 60-51 at St. Marys High School.
“Every game we’re going to play at this point is going to be a battle,” Jeckavitch said. “We’ll see who we play. Once we do, we’ll look at the matchups and figure out what we like. I feel very confident in the group we have and I know the guys are very excited to move on in the playoffs.
“There’s no moment that’s too big for these guys. We’ve been in the playoffs and we’ve won in the playoffs. They’ve won on the football side as well. That’s just the type of kids we have here at Wilmington — gritty, grindy. These guys know how to win and there’s something to be said about that. To build a winning culture, you have to win and these guys have done that in everything they’ve done in their lives!”
Robert Pontius backed up Kelliher’s effort with eight points, 11 rebounds and three steals, while Yohman also reached the eight-point mark. The Greyhounds made 15 of 36 shots from the field.
Keystone (18-7) did not have a single player reach double figures and was led by Troy Johnson’s seven points.