Start­ing strong

Patriots split dou­ble­header to open sea­son

The Citizens' Voice - - SPORTS - BY TOM FOX COR­RE­SPON­DENT

YATESVILLE — Hanover Area was start­ing to creep back.

With Justin Kopko wav­ing his arms for his fel­low stu­dents that made the trip to Pittston Area to get loud, the Hawkeyes fought back from a dou­ble-digit half­time deficit to make it a one-possession game late in the third quar­ter. En­ter Pa­triot fresh­man JJ Walsh. The guard ripped ny­lon with a 3-pointer near the end of the quar­ter, and Pittston Area never looked back, scor­ing 25 points in the fourth and pulling away from Hanover Area, 65-49, Fri­day night to be­gin the high school bas­ket­ball sea­son.

“We didn’t have a great sea­son last year, so we re­ally wanted to get off on the right foot,” Pittston guard An­drew Krawczyk said. “We knew we had to keep it to­gether when they started to make a come­back. We kept up our in­ten­sity, and were able to fight through it.”

Down by 10 at half­time, Hanover found it­self right back in the mix. Thanks to six third-quar­ter points from Kopko, and two Asad White­head buck­ets near point-blank range, the Hawkeyes were down just 35-32 with 90 sec­onds left in the quar­ter.

Ninety sec­onds later, that mo­men­tum was gone as Walsh’s tri­fecta from the wing ig­nited the Pa­triot stu­dent sec­tion, and team­mate Lo­gan Booth drained an el­bow jumper with nine ticks left as the lead blos­somed back to 40-33 with one pe­riod left.

“That was the big one be­cause we had it back to three,” Hanover sec­ond-year head coach Chris Gray said. “We wanted to get a spark com­ing out of the locker room to put some pres­sure on them. We got what we wanted, and then, they hit that 3-pointer and it goes right back to seven. You could see our mo­men­tum de­flate and our heads drop a lit­tle bit.”

The fourth quar­ter showed what the Pittston of­fense could look like.

Five dif­fer­ent play­ers scored, in­clud­ing eight from Michael Ge­orge — who fin­ished with a game-high 21 points. The team shot a blis­ter­ing 9 of 12 from the floor as Pittston grew the lead to 54-39 with 4:43 left.

“I think our guys learned that we are ca­pa­ble of bat­tling through some ad­ver­sity,” PA head coach Alan Kiesinger said. “It was a pos­i­tive sign. We had some but­ter­flies, but when we started to run the floor, we had some suc­cess. That 3-pointer by JJ is such a big play in the game be­cause we had been strug­gling up to that point.”

It took the Patriots a lit­tle time to get rolling.

Hanover jumped out to a 6-1 lead, all on free throws, to start the game, only to see Pittston close the first on a 14-6 run in the fi­nal 3:43 to take a 15-12 edge af­ter one.

Kiesinger’s club re­ally brought the de­fense in the sec­ond, hold­ing Hanover to just five points on 1 of 11 from the floor as Kopko spent most of the quar­ter on the bench in foul trou­ble.

“De­fend and re­bound. That’s what we kept telling them be­cause we know that de­fense will win games for us,” Kiesinger said. “The of­fense will fol­low the de­fense.”

Ge­orge and Brennan Higgins com­bined for 38 of the Patriots’ 65 points, while Walsh was the third player in dou­ble dig­its with 10 points. Khairi Car­son had a team-high 14 for Hanover, while Kopko fin­ished two re­bounds short of a dou­ble- dou­ble with 10 points and eight boards.

GAR girls open with a win

Af­ter fin­ish­ing with just two wins in 2017-2018, Hat­tie Caruso couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter start to the new sea­son.

The Gre­nadiers closed the third quar­ter on a 9-2 run, and that short burst proved to be the dif­fer­ence as GAR hung on for a 43-34 vic­tory over Pittston Area in the first game of the dou­ble­header Fri­day night.

“I am so proud of these young ladies,” Caruso said. “We’ve been putting in the hard work, and they have kept their heads held high. We have to stay strong, and just play ev­ery quar­ter like it’s our last one. We have to stay to­gether and work as a team.”

For Caruso, it was the per­fect com­bi­na­tion. Play sti­fling de­fense, and let Vanessa Luna do her thing on the of­fen­sive end.

GAR held Pittston to 23 per­cent from the field in the first half as the Patriots were just 1 of 11 from be­hind the 3-point stripe in the fourth quar­ter.

Luna, on the other hand, was sen­sa­tional.

She fin­ished with a game­high 15 points, in­clud­ing a com­bined 11 points in the sec­ond and third quar­ters as the Gre­nadiers be­gan to pull away.

“This is re­ally big for us,” Luna said. “It’s great for our sea­son. I think this sets a tone for us. It shows that we can be com­pet­i­tive with the teams on our sched­ule, and shows that we can have some suc­cess.”

Pittston cut the deficit to six on Emily O’brien’s jumper with 4:10 left be­fore GAR iced the game from the foul line in the fi­nal min­utes.

In ad­di­tion to Luna’s 15 points, Hannah Cook added 11 points in the win, while Emma Coles had a teamhigh 10 points off the bench for Pittston.

FRANK C. LAURI / CON­TRIBUT­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Pittston Area’s Brennan Higgins shoots a 3-pointer over Hanover Area’s Evan Ma­terna.

FRANK C. LAURI / CON­TRIBUT­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

GAR’S Hannah Cook, left, goes up for a shot past Pittston Area’s Emily O’brien.

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