South Xtra: McKeesport accustomed to pressure

Brad Everett's High School Basketball Notebook

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Playing an overtime game in the playoff opener might make some teams feel out of sorts.

Not McKeesport. The Tigers felt right at home.

Playing in overtime -- and down-to-the-wire games, in general -- has been commonplace for McKeesport this season, and that experience paid off last Saturday when the No. 11 seed Tigers used overtime to upset No. 6 Bethel Park, 58-54, in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round game at Baldwin.

In the regular season, Mc-Keesport played three overtime games, going 1-2 in those contests. One of the losses was an 89-83 triple-overtime defeat at Central Catholic. Of Mc-Keesport's last 11 games, eight have been decided by seven points or fewer.

So when Bethel Park forced overtime by making a free throw with 24 seconds left in regulation, the Tigers weren't rattled one bit.

"I looked in their eyes, and they had the look like we've been here before," McKeesport coach Corey Gadson said. "Those overtime games definitely helped us, even though we lost a couple."

Future bright for EF, Steel Valley

Class AAA Section 4 rivals Elizabeth Forward and Steel Valley lost heartbreakers in the preliminary round of the WPIAL tournament, but both have reason to be optimistic that next year's teams will be even better. The Warriors and Ironmen were loaded with underclassmen contributors, and both teams had just a handful of seniors.

Elizabeth Forward junior JaQuan Davidson was one of the top scorers in the South Xtra area, averaging 22 points per game. It was a breakout season for Davidson, a transfer from McKeesport. Junior Jalen French started at point guard for the Warriors, and fellow juniors Austin Matta and Matt Bernadowski also found their way into the starting lineup for first-year coach Gerald "Puddin" Grayson.

Steel Valley was fueled by the play of junior guard Ajan Smith, who averaged a team-best 18 points per game. Junior Dorian Broadwater was the second-leading scorer and junior Derek Taylor was the Ironmen's top point producer in their playoff game. The Ironmen will also bring back one of the most imposing inside presences in the area, 6-foot-8 sophomore center Tyler Lewis.

In preliminary-round play, Steel Valley was defeated by South Park, 67-60, in double overtime, while Elizabeth Forward was edged by Indiana, 59-56.

South Park then ran into a buzzsaw against Mars Area in first-round action, losing, 65-37. The Eagles were led by 6-foot-7 senior center Ryan Smider, who scored 21 points in his final game.

Hot start for Washington

Washington couldn't have hoped for a better start to the postseason. The Little Prexies (17-6) scored the first 28 points of the game in their 76-32 preliminary-round win against Jefferson-Morgan last Saturday. Jefferson-Morgan didn't score until there were 30 seconds left in the first quarter. Washington led, 28-5, when the quarter concluded. Jaylin Kelly (11) and Jordan Drew (7) combined to score 18 of those points. The Little Prexies extended their lead to 44-13 going into halftime.

Leading scorer Josh Wise paced Washington with 19 points in the game. The 76 points were the second-most the Little Prexies had scored this season, and most since defeating Elizabeth Forward, 78-71, on Dec. 28.

Washington played Section 1 co-champion Burrell (16-6) in a first-round game Wednesday.

Weekly watch

Here is a key playoff game to keep an eye on this week.

Saturday -- Hampton (19-4) vs. McKeesport (15-7), site and time to be determined (Class AAAA quarterfinals): The Luther twins, Ryan (6-8) and Collin (6-7), give No. 3 Hampton a significant size advantage against most teams, but No. 11 McKeesport isn't short on height either, with the likes of 6-6 Daryn Simmons, 6-6 Lucas Blacka, 6-5 Matthew Sutton and 6-4 Jamie Grayson. McKeesport is very balanced offensively, but Hampton might want to pay special attention to Carlitto Acie, who knocked down six 3-pointers and scored 28 points in a 58-54 first-round upset of No. 6 Bethel Park. Hampton has won eight of its past nine games, the most recent being a 53-48 triumph against Mt. Lebanon in the first round. The Talbots, the Class AAA runner-up last season, are looking to reach their fourth semifinal in five years.


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