Central Valley coach Brandon Ambrose says his team spends more than half its practice time on defense. But the Warriors are going to a place they've never been because one good half of offense.
After an extremely sluggish first half on offense, Central Valley played extremely efficient in the final two quarters and knocked off defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Montour, 50-38, at West Allegheny in a quarterfinal game Friday night.
Now it's Central Valley in the semifinals. That sentence has never been written before.
Central Valley, in its fourth year of existence, will play in the semifinals Tuesday for the first time against Thomas Jefferson, which defeated Blackhawk, 72-67, in another quarterfinal. Montour, the WPIAL champ two of the past three years, is 16-8, but retains a chance to qualify for the PIAA playoffs.
Central Valley missed its first seven shots and didn't score for nearly the first five minutes. Central Valley (20-3) scored only four points in the first quarter.
Montour was extremely successful in the playoffs the past three seasons by using Devin Wilson to control tempo and keep scores low. Wilson is now at Virginia Tech, but coach Adam Kaufman had the Spartans at it again against the No. 2 seed for the Class AAA tournament. Montour was ahead, 16-10, and led at halftime, 19-18.
But the game changed in the second half as Central Valley shot 70 percent (14 of 20) from the field. Central Valley opened up a 31-27 lead after three quarters.
"I think we're versatile enough to play different styles against different teams," Ambrose said. "You don't want to get in a slowdown with Montour, and we really didn't want to. But our offense was so bad in the first half.
"Our guys are usually calm and cool with the basketball, but they weren't the better part of the game. Then, we finally got a four- or five-point lead and we're pretty good in that delay game."
Matt Kline, a 6-foot-8 senior center was one of the main reasons for the offensive efficiency in the second half.
After missing all four shots in the first quarter, Kline was 7 of 7 from the field the rest of the way and finished with a game-high 17 points.
Forward Tony Gates scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
"I think he battles nerves sometimes early in games," Ambrose said of Kline. "But that's why we had to keep going to him. I've seen it a number of times this year. But you can't give up on him. We just had to keep going to him."
Kline's defense also played a role in the win. Montour's Dustin Sleva, a 6-6 senior, came in averaging 20 points. But Kline held him to six points and only seven shots. Guard Josh Randall led Montour with 15.
Kline's size helped against Sleva, but Central Valley also did an excellent job fighting through screens and playing help defense when Sleva stepped away from the basket.
Montour trailed by only 40-36 with 2:30 left, but Central Valley finished with a 10-2 run.
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: email@example.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.