Beaver Falls edge upset-minded Steel Valley in PIAA opening round
March 5, 2016 12:00 AM
Beaver Falls' Josh Creach and Steel Valley's Amonte Strothers dive for a loose ball Friday night at Ambridge.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
That so-called WPIAL hangover for championship teams? It’s real, insisted Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega.
Biega said he saw it in practice this week days after the Tigers won a WPIAL Class AAA title. Standout junior Josh Creach also said he saw it and felt it.
“Just too much foolishness at practice,” Creach said.
At halftime of a PIAA first-round playoff game Friday night at Ambridge, Beaver Falls seemingly had a splitting headache as the Tigers trailed Steel Valley by eight points. The medicine for Beaver Falls was Creach.
Creach, Beaver Falls’ standout 6-foot-7 junior, scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, gave a jolt of energy to his team with a dunk, and the Tigers went on to edge Steel Valley, 57-54, in a Class AAA game. Creach also finished with nine rebounds as the Tigers survived against the WPIAL’s No. 7 seed.
“I don’t want to discount what Steel Valley did. They’re a good team, but obviously there was some sort of hangover with us,” Biega said. “Josh is an energy guy. When he plays hard, he plays well. And when he plays hard and well, so do we. When he is lackluster out there like he was in the first half, so are we.”
Creach finished 6 of 14 from the field, made two 3-pointers and was 9 of 13 from the free-throw line. He scored a three-point play with 7:32 to play to tie the score and dunked off a rebound to give Beaver Falls (24-3) the lead for good, 48-46, early in the fourth quarter.
It’s like when Beaver Falls needs a power surge, the Tigers plug into Creach. In three of the past four games, he is averaging 25 points overall and 19 points in the second half.
“We came out slow and didn’t have the right tempo in the first half,” said Creach, who averages 20 points a game for the season. “At halftime, I put my game face on. I was ready and did what I had to do. I think I did play way harder in the second half.”
Steel Valley’s 2-3 zone neutralized Creach and 6-5 Donovan Jeter for the first half while Beaver Falls made only 21 percent (3 of 14) from 3-point range.
Steel Valley (17-8), which played without injured point guard Ryan McCallister, got 13 points from Kennedy Smith and 12 apiece from Ja’Mier Fletcher and Amonte Strothers.
Fletcher, a 6-5 sophomore, scored with 25.5 seconds left to cut the lead to 57-54. Smith missed a 3-pointer with six seconds left, and there was a jump ball on the rebound. Possession went to Beaver Falls, which inbounded the ball to end the game.
An emotional Dale Chapman, Steel Valley’s first-year coach, had tears in his eyes after the game.
“It’s my first team, and I’m just proud of the way the kids played,” he said. “We knew in the first half we didn’t take Beaver Falls’ best shot. We thought we gave them our best shot and we knew we’d be in a dogfight.”
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