Montour found itself trailing the No. 1 seed by nine points at halftime in the WPIAL Class AAA boys championship game, but as the Spartans went on to show, never count out a group of players who have played in as many big games as any team in Western Pennsylvania.
The Spartans held one of the top offensive teams in the WPIAL to 11 points in the second half and rallied to win their second WPIAL title in three years with a 47-40 triumph against Chartiers Valley last Friday at Palumbo Center.
Montour (22-4) starts four seniors, a few of whom have played key roles in leading the Spartans to not only two WPIAL championship wins, but also two runner-up finishes in the PIAA tournament (2011 and 2012).
"We have a veteran group, senior-laden guys who have played in a lot of big games like this," said Montour coach Adam Kaufman. "I don't think they panic. They kind of stayed the course and kept plugging away."
Senior starters Devin Wilson, Kevin Scuilli, Justin Hill and Rob Julian combined to score all but seven of Montour's points. Scuilli led the Spartans with three 3-pointers -- including two mammoth ones in the fourth quarter -- and Wilson, the team's four-year starting point guard, had a team-high seven rebounds.
"We've done this for four years," said Scuilli, who scored nine points. "This one we came back down, 29-20, and we gave up 11 points in the second half. That shows what we've done all year."
Montour, which has won 14 games in a row, moves on to the PIAA playoffs and will play Section 5 rival South Fayette (14-10) Friday at North Allegheny. The teams split their regular-season meetings, each winning on their home court.
"I think we can beat anyone if we play our game, defend, rebound and get good looks offensively," Scuilli said. "We know what we have to do. With a guy like Devin controlling the ball and controlling the pace, we're tough to beat."
Wilson was terrific in clutch time against Chartiers Valley (22-4), another Section 5 foe with whom Montour split two regular-season games. Wilson outscored Chartiers Valley in the second half by scoring 12 points, and made four consecutive free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the victory. Wilson finished with a game-high 19 points.
Montour held a 43-41 lead in the closing minutes, but Chartiers Valley could not capitalize on several Spartans turnovers. The Colts turned the ball over four times and missed five of six shots in the final 1:30.
"Turnovers killed us," said Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell. "We turned the ball over way too much. And with a team like that, especially when they have the lead, they're very good."
Montour displayed a masterful defensive performance in the second half against the top scoring offense in Class AAA. Chartiers Valley averages 71.8 points per game and is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the WPIAL. But after shooting 59 percent (13 of 22) in the first half, the Colts shot just 18 percent (4 of 22) and were 0 for 9 on 3-pointers in the second half.
Chartiers Valley's 6-foot-6 center Spencer Casson played a big part in Chartiers Valley taking the halftime lead by scoring 14 points. Casson, however, was held to four in the second half.
"I think they doubled Spencer a lot more and made it tough to get it in there," McConnell said.
With the score tied, 36-36, with 2:53 left, Scuilli nailed a 3 to give Montour the lead for good. Casson scored to make it 39-38, and Scuilli knocked down another 3 to put the Spartans ahead, 42-38.
"He works so hard at it," Kaufman said. "I know he has a big volume of 3s in his career, but people don't understand how many big ones he's made."
People should definitely understand how many big games this Montour team has won.
And more could be on the way.
First Published March 7, 2013 5:00 AM