Penns Valley knew it faced a difficult task Saturday against Seton LaSalle, the WPIAL champ and the state’s second-ranked team, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA Boys’ Basketball Tournament.
After a rough first quarter, the underdog Rams fought back and after sinking the first hoop of the third period they were down 36-26.
But from there, the contest belonged to the Rebels. Seton LaSalle pulled away over the final two quarters to knock off the underdog Rams 82-51 at Penn Hills High School. The Rebels (26-1) advance to face Mercyhurst Prep (19-7), a 78-70 winner over Brookville, while the Rams ended the season at 19-7.
“We knew they were athletic, quick and strong and would present problems for us defensively, especially on the boards,” Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt said. “They had way too many second chance opportunities.”
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Penns Valley, the fourth-place finisher in District 6, fell behind early as Seton LaSalle raced to an 18-7 lead after a quarter. The Rams played right with the Rebels in the second period and were down 36-24 at the break.
“Hope is a great thing,” Glunt said. “It’s a great motivator. Our guys got up and really battled and clawed their way back into the game. ... I loved the way the kids battled.”
But after the Rams cut it to 10, Seton La Salle’s offense kicked it into high gear. They outscored the Rams 27-14 in the third period.
Led by Levi Masua’s 18 points, four different Rebels scored in double figures.
“They exploded offensively,” Glunt said. “They can hurt you from the inside and outside.”
Ryan Norcus (13), Dale Clancy (12) and Dominick Delgreco (11) also scored in double figures for the Rebels.
Wil Jackson paced the Rams with 12 points. Luke Weaver and Logan Johnson added 11 points each. Before the contest was over, Glunt cleared his bench to get every player some time in a PIAA game.
Glunt said he was proud of his squad, which was lead by seniors Dalton Ulmanic, Cameron Tobias, Taylor Collison, Jackson and Weaver.
“We had an outstanding group of seniors,” Glunt said. “I knew we would be successful, but there were a lot of other good teams in the Mountain League. I thought it was quite an accomplishment to share the Mountain League title with Bald Eagle Area.
“District 6 was also strong in Class AA and making it here to the states is quite an accomplishment, too.”
He said the senior class will be missed. Starting as sophomores, the group steadily improved until racking up 19 wins this season.
“This group of seniors has been very successful,” he said. “We put them into the fire as sophomores. ... They were challenged and provided good leadership and set an excellent example for the underclassmen to follow.”