HERSHEY, Pa. -- Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega initially walked onto the court and celebrated with his players after picking up one of the biggest wins in school history Saturday. Then he quickly came back to the bench area to pick up his young son, Jack, and hold him high in the air.
Moments earlier, Biega's team made its own comeback, and it led to Beaver Falls holding the PIAA championship trophy just as high.
Beaver Falls trailed by 10 points late in the third quarter but rallied to defeat Holy Cross, 69-63, in the PIAA Class AA championship at Giant Center.
It's the fourth PIAA title for Beaver Falls (28-3) and first since 2005. The Tigers lost in overtime by two points in last year's championship game.
Beaver Falls finished the season with 18 wins in a row and became the first WPIAL boys team to win a PIAA title since South Fayette and Sewickley Academy did it in 2010.
"It's the best feeling in the world right now," said Beaver Falls junior guard Elijah Cottrill. "I haven't experienced anything better than this."
Beaver Falls, which had many lopsided wins on its resume, might not have had a better comeback than this.
Holy Cross (27-6), the District 2 champion, scored four seconds into the game and led for more than three quarters. But Beaver Falls remained within striking distance, and the Tigers made their move just in time.
Beaver Falls fell behind, 48-38, but a 3-pointer by Danny Stratton with 1:46 to go in the third quarter ignited the offense and ultimately led to a 19-6 run.
"It felt like we were behind 10 the whole game, but we knew 32 minutes was a long game," Beaver Falls senior guard Drew Cook said. "We just kept coming and coming after them."
Beaver Falls scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter on layups by Cottrill and Micoy Mason to pull within 48-45. Holy Cross got a basket by Casey Gaughan, but Stratton responded with a jump shot, and then Javon Turner converted two Holy Cross turnovers into back-to-back baskets to give Beaver Falls its first lead, 51-50, with 5:09 left.
"I think the fact that we turned the ball over [hurt us]," said Holy Cross coach Al Callejas. "They scored a couple of quick points and it completely stopped our momentum. That kind of turned it around. I thought we got tentative for a little bit and they got more aggressive."
With the score tied, 54-54, Stratton made a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Beaver Falls a lead it never relinquished.
Beaver Falls dodged a bullet in the closing seconds. The Tigers led, 66-63, when Cook was fouled with 17 seconds remaining. Cook missed the free throws, but Zach Miller got the offensive rebound. Cook was fouled again, and this time made two free throws with 10 seconds left.
"Zach Miller gets that rebound and we basically end the game. That was enormous," Biega said.
Beaver Falls got its usual balanced scoring effort, with four players finishing in double figures. Cook led the way with 15, Stratton and Mason had 14, and Cottrill had 12. Turner added 9.
Holy Cross got a terrific performance by 6-foot-6 senior center Josh Kosin, who had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
"He's a Division I basketball player. I'm not one to project levels, but I could definitely see him playing at the next level," Biega said of Kosin, who has not committed to a college.
Beaver Falls trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half and was down, 35-27, at the half.
"They say your team takes on the personality of your coach," Biega said. "Not that I'm unflappable. I might have been a little comatose there in the first half. We stayed calm. Maybe because it never really got away from us. It was always within striking distance. We just stayed the course. We were the little engine that could today."
First Published March 24, 2013 4:30 AM