In what was a rare sight, Clairton players were handed silver medals Friday night after a team nicknamed the Royals put forth a golden performance to become kings of WPIAL Class A basketball.
Vincentian's high-scoring offense was in championship form, leading the Royals to their second WPIAL title with an 86-74 win against Clairton in the Class A final at Palumbo Center.
Jim Kenna scored a career-high 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for No. 2 Vincentian (25-1), which also won a WPIAL title in 2011.
Vincentian Academy 86, Clairton 74
Vincentian Academy takes on Clairton in the WPIAL Class A Championship game at Palumbo Center. (Video by Andrew Rush; 3/1/2013)
Clairton (16-7), the No. 4 seed, upset top seed Lincoln Park Tuesday, but was denied its seventh WPIAL title. The Bears were trying to be the 16th school in WPIAL history to win football and basketball titles in the same year.
Vincentian is the highest scoring team in the WPIAL, averaging 83.7 points per game. That potency showed against Clairton, with Vincentian scoring the third-most points in WPIAL Class A championship history. The Royals shot 42 percent (25 of 59) from the field, but it was at the free-throw line where they made history. The Royals were 31 of 46 from the line. The 31 made free throws set a Class A record. Clairton, meanwhile, was 3 of 13.
"We shoot a lot of foul shots because we press the action," said Vincentian coach George Yokitis.
The score was tied, 39-39, at halftime, but Vincentian separated from Clairton in the third quarter. Clairton scored the first five points of the half to go ahead, 44-39, but Vincentian went on an 11-0 run to take a 50-44 lead and outscored the Bears, 24-16, in the quarter to go up by eight after three quarters.
"We just figured they'd run out of gas," said Vincentian's Ryan Wolf, who scored 14 points. "We're used to playing [at a fast pace], so we just kept running."
Clairton could not get within six points in the fourth quarter, with Vincentian spending most of the time at the free-throw line. The Royals were 16 of 22 from the line in the final quarter.
Tony DiNardo scored 16 points for Vincentian, Jay Cortese added 11 points off the bench and Kevin Fischer chipped in 10.
Bryon Clifford led Clairton with 20 points. Terrish Webb had 15, and Armani Ford and Aaron Matthews added 10 apiece. Clairton shot 39 percent (33 of 84) from the field.
Clairton made a surprising run to the championship after making history on the football field by breaking the state record for consecutive wins. The seniors on that team -- five of whom are starters in basketball -- had never lost a championship game, winning four WPIAL and four PIAA titles.
"We were fine in the first half, then we just couldn't get it going in the second half," said Tyler Boyd. "We're just not used to this feeling."
Vincentian did a great job on the boards, leading to many second-chance opportunities on offense. Vincentian outrebounded Clairton, 62-48.
"We knew coming in they were going to hit the boards hard," Clairton coach Matt Geletko said. "Again, that's another one of those little parts of the game. We got outrebounded by 14. You're not going to win too many games when that happens."
Vincentian started the game strong, with Kenna scoring eight points -- including two 3-pointers -- to give the Royals a 17-10 lead with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
"I'm usually not a big scorer for our team," Kenna said. "I was getting open looks tonight. Coach has confidence in all of us. He wants all of us to shoot. I was making them today, thankfully."
Matt Lang's basket with 5:07 left in the second quarter put Vincentian ahead, 26-23, but Clairton went on a 13-5 run capped by Clifford's 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining to give Clairton a 36-31 lead. Vincentian rallied to knot the score, 39-39, at the half.
Vincentian and Clairton begin play in the PIAA tournament Friday. Vincentian plays District 9 third-place finisher North Clarion, and Clairton plays District 10 runner-up Cochranton.
First Published March 2, 2013 5:00 AM