The sparkling new gymnasium at the Montour Athletic Center has a small track that circles the top of the bleachers. Obama Academy and Vincentian extended the track idea to the basketball court.
They should have started this contest with a starter's gun instead of a jump ball because it was WPIAL basketball's version of a track meet.
Back and forth. Sprint and shoot. Sprint and shoot. That was how this battle of unbeatens went Sunday afternoon before Obama held off a strong finishing kick from Vincentian for an 88-84 victory.
The game was one of six in the Pittsburgh Classic, an event put on by the Pittsburgh Basketball Club. Obama, the No. 1-ranked team in the City League, is now 14-0 while the loss dropped Vincentian, ranked No. 2 in Class A, to 16-1.
The game came down to Obama beat Vincentian at its own game. Vincentian likes to play at breakneck speed and came in averaging 94 points a game. Obama likes to play a faster tempo also.
"But not quite as fast as [Vincentian]," Obama coach Nate Lofton said.
But there was Obama, breaking Vincentian's full-court presses, half-court traps and attacking the Royals with drives to the basket when the first line of defense was broken. And Obama played the quick pace, despite using only six players.
D.J. Porter, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, led five Obama players in double figures with 29 points. He scored on a number of drives to the basket and rarely shot from more than 10 feet away. Calique Jones, a 6-1 senior guard, scored 21.
"We can't play too much like this, but we started practicing this way last week because we knew how [Vincentian] likes to play this way," Porter said. "It was fun. I like to run up and down like that."
While both teams played at a fast pace, they also used different styles. Obama didn't shoot many 3-pointers and made only two. Vincentian shot 32 3-pointers and made 12.
Obama's win overshadowed a terrific performance by Ryan Wolf, Vincentian's junior guard. He made eight 3-pointers and scored 40 points. Jim Kenna added 13. Vincentian coach George Yokitis had talked with son, assistant coach Danny Yokitis, about maybe playing a different style against Obama.
"We thought about maybe playing more of a half-court game or using a box-and-one or triangle-and-two defense," George Yokitis said. "But we decided this is how we play and we're pretty good at it."
But Obama was a little better. The game was close throughout before Obama went on a 12-5 run to grab a 79-66 lead midway through the fourth. Vincentian stormed back and tied the score, 82-82, on a basket by Wolf with 1:51 remaining. Obama scored the next four points before Vincentian's Kevin Fischer scored off a rebound to make it 86-84. In the last minute, Vincentian missed three 3-pointers that would have either tied the score or given Vincentian the lead. Jones' free throw with 4.3 seconds left sealed the win.
"At the end, we got two good looks at 3-pointers," George Yokitis said. "I think we were a little tired and missed them. If we make them, I'm sitting here talking about what a great game it was to win."
Other Classic highlights
* Lincoln Park (16-1), the No. 1-ranked WPIAL Class A team, stepped up in class and knocked off Hempfield, 94-76. Hempfield (14-2) is No. 4 in Class AAAA. Sophomore Maverick Rowan scored 31 points for Lincoln Park and Elijah Minnie added 22. Kasen Harrell had 29 for Hempfield.
* Chartiers Valley, the Post-Gazette's No. 1 WPIAL Class AAA team, jumped to an eight-point lead after the first quarter and went on to defeat Jeannette, 67-50. Jerrad Tuite had three 3-pointers and 20 points for Chartiers Valley. Junior guard Julian Batts scored 20 points for Jeannette (9-7) and went over 1,000 for his career. Batts now has 1,014.
* Seton-LaSalle (17-1) fell from the unbeaten ranks when it lost to Montour, 68-56. Dustin Sleva led Montour (10-5) with 21 points.
* Seneca Valley (10-7) had a season-high for points in a 95-82 victory against Beaver (6-10). Zach Snyder scored 26 points for Seneca Valley.
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh