HERSHEY, Pa. -- Levi Masua's jersey had a few red stains on it. His lip was bloodied.
But what hurt the most was his heart.
"I didn't think it was going to be a swish," Masua said, his eyes red from tears. "But I thought it was going to go in."
Seton-LaSalle misses buzzer-beater, loses PIAA Class AA title game
Seton-LaSalle misses buzzer-beater and falls to Constitution High, 61-59, in state title game. (Video by Andrew Rush; 3/22/2014)
Seton-LaSalle coach Mark "Knobby" Walsh thought the same thing. Point guard Dale Clancy threw the pass to Masua and also thought the shot was good. It had nice arc. The ball had good rotation. If the shot went in, there would be one big Rebel yell at the Giant Center.
But Masua's 3-pointer just before the final buzzer was an inch or two long. It hit the back rim, bounced high into the air and Seton-LaSalle's fans put away the brooms.
Seton-LaSalle lost in the PIAA Class AA championship Saturday, 61-59, to Constitution High School of Philadelphia. Seton-LaSalle was trying to become only the third school from the WPIAL to sweep the boys and girls titles in the same year.
Seton-LaSalle's girls won their gold medals Friday afternoon and watched the boys game from seats under the basket. They cheered as their classmates almost came back from a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes. Then one shot was just a tad too long.
Masua, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, played a terrific game, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He hit a 3-pointer to tie the score, 59-59, with 1:03 left. But Constitution went ahead with 34 seconds left when Akeem King made one of two free throws. After Clancy missed a shot with 12 seconds left, Constitution's Kimar Williams was fouled with 8.3 seconds left. He made one of two free throws.
Seton-LaSalle's Malik White grabbed the rebound on the miss and passed to Clancy. His team out of timeouts, Clancy hurried up the court. Just as he crossed halfcourt, he was about to be double-teamed. Clancy, one of the best point guards in the WPIAL, saw it coming. So he passed to an open Masua on the wing, just behind the 3-point line.
"Levi had just made a 3 from the same spot. I had confidence in him," Clancy said. "They came and double-teamed [me] and I saw him open."
Walsh said: "If we could get him that shot every time and say, 'If it goes, you win, and if it doesn't you lose?' I'll take it every time.
"It says a lot about Dale Clancy because he could've come down and just forced something. But he found an open teammate."
After the shot missed and the buzzer sounded, Masua took his mouthpiece out and slammed it to the floor. He welled up with tears. The WPIAL champion Rebels (29-2) were so close to winning their first PIAA title in 26 years.
Despite the heartache, Masua showed maturity beyond his years. On his way to the locker room after the game, he stopped and answered reporters' questions about that last shot.
"As a kid in the backyard with your little brothers, you do those '3-2-1 buzzer beaters,' " Masua said. "It's something I've always wanted to do and glad I got to experience it on such a big stage. Unfortunately, I didn't make it, but the experience will last a lifetime. It's a learning process and I like learning."
The shot ended a game that was close throughout. Many thought Constitution, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, would roll. But the Generals (28-5) led at halftime by only 27-24.
"If any person you would want success to happen for and who deserves it, it's Levi because he's such a good kid," Walsh said. "It was like a Cinderella finish, but we just didn't make it to the dance."
Ahmad Gilbert, a 6-6 junior forward, led Constitution with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Besides Masua's 19, Seton-LaSalle also got 16 points from Clancy and 12 from junior forward Ryan Norkus. Constitution was only 3 for 8 from the free-throw line in the final 2:39 and the erratic shooting let Seton-LaSalle come back.
First Published March 22, 2014 4:12 PM