Matthew Stanley HEADSHOT 2022

Matthew Stanley

WEXFORD — Take control early.

That was the message for Union High’s boys team Friday night in its PIAA Class 1A quarterfinal against Carlynton.

In the fourth matchup with the Cougars, the Scotties wanted to leave little doubt in the outcome as soon as possible. They achieved it as a strong start propelled the team to a 75-55 win at North Allegheny High School.

“When we’ve played them, they have been good games. They play hard. The last couple times, we’ve been very fortunate to shoot it so well,” Union coach Mark Stanley said. “We got some looks and knocked down our shots. You don’t expect that, but it’s nice when it happens. It was nice getting out to that lead. You want to survive and advance and we were able to do it.”

An 11-3 run to open the game set the tone for Union (25-3), which beat Carlynton (19-8) twice in section play as well as in the WPIAL semifinals.

“They are a familiar opponent and a really good team,” said Union’s Matt Stanley, who led all scorers with 24 points. “When we played them in the semifinals, it was close in the first half and we created separation in the second half. It was good for us to have a good start to get rolling.”

Seven different Scotties tickled the twine in the first quarter as they posted a 24-9 edge. They poured it on in the second quarter for a 41-19 halftime advantage.

“Defense was a real big thing coming into this game,” Union’s Kaden Fisher said. “We knew we had to stop their offense.”

Union wasn’t content, though. Matt Stanley tallied 10 of his points in the third quarter and brother Lucas Stanley, who finished with 16 points, swished two of his four 3-pointers in the frame to help the Scotties reach the 30-point mercy rule late in the frame.

“Carlynton plays hard and they never quit,” Coach Stanley said. “I don’t think they play to the scoreboard. I was not comfortable until it got to 30 and a running clock.”

Once again, the team’s depth proved to be a strength. Fisher finished with eight points, but controlled the paint for Union and was a menace around the basket.

“Fisher, that might have been his best game of the year,” Coach Stanley said. “He was possessed. He got rebounding right away; every ball was his. I have not seen him play better. He doesn’t have to score to affect the game. He was affecting the game defensively and offensively with his rebounds. He came to play tonight.”

Braylon Thomas had seven points, while Cameron Taylor and Peyton Lombardo both had six.

“We have a very deep team. You could say we have 10 starters — five off the bench could come on and give us good minutes,” Matt Stanley said. “We’re a very unselfish group; we like to get others involved. When that happens, that’s when we’re playing our best.”

The win puts Union in a rematch with Imani Christian (21-6), an 80-50 winner over Farrell, in Monday’s semifinals at a time and site to be announced. Imani beat the Scotties, 64-41, in the WPIAL title game.

“It’s a lot more exciting to watch them when they’re not playing you than when they are,” Coach Stanley said. “They are good. They have everything. They have guards; they have bigs; their bigs can shoot; they run; they defend. We’ll come out and play as hard as we can. If they beat us, we’re going to shake their hands and move on. It is what it is. We’re a proud team and we’re not going to back down, but I am sure they won’t either. Hopefully, we can make some adjustments and we’ll see what happens.”

“We want another shot at them,” Matt Stanley added. “They are a very good team and we’ll have to play our best. We’ll come ready and give everything we’ve got.”

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Joe Sager is a former full-time sports writer for the New Castle News and currently freelances for the News and other Western Pennsylvania newspapers.

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