CRANBERRY TWP. - Basketball is made up of two major parts: Offense and defense.
But when a team does only one of those things well, it can be a recipe for disaster.
On Friday night, McConnellsburg's boys team held Sewickley Academy, a team averaging nearly 69 points per game, to its lowest point total of the season. But the Spartans didn't help themselves at all, also scoring their lowest offensive output of the year. It resulted in a 45-25 loss in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
"Our defense was on point," McConnellsburg senior Landon Richards said. "Finally even I did decent on defense, and I'm not known for the defensive side of the ball. I think we were definitely prepared for what they had to give."
Sewickley coach Win Palmer said, "I heard through different people that they're an excellent defensive team. A lot of teams in our district are afraid to play us man-to-man, and I don't think most of our kids thought they would. They did, and they played it really well."
Defense was certainly the name of the game through the first three quarters. Heading into the final frame, McConnellsburg (21-5) trailed the Panthers (24-3) just 25-20.
But the Spartans simply couldn't sustain the pressure they put on Sewickley through the first 24 minutes. Out of the gate, the Panthers got a 3-pointer from Chris Groetsch that seemed to give them some shooting confidence.
"Three-pointers, charges, blocks, things like that really bring up the energy," Sewickley Academy guard Nate Ridgeway said. "It really sparks us offensively and defensively. I think that three helped us a lot; it got us fired up."
McConnellsburg's Richards answered Groetsch with a longball of his own, but the Panthers scored the game's next 11 points. In less than four minutes, Sewickley had taken its five-point lead and turned it into a 16-point advantage.
After shooting a mere 22.6 percent from the field in the first three quarters, the Panthers turned up the offensive heat. They went 8-for-11 (72.7%) from the field in the fourth, and got 10 points in the frame from Ridgeway.
"They just kept bringing guys out, and I think we wore down," Spartan coach Dane Pollock said. "The guys were also starting to look up and seeing it was coming to an end; I could see it in the huddle."
Early on, McConnellsburg's defensive prowess was matched by Sewickley's. The Spartans, who shot 9-for-40 (22.5%) from the field, struggled to move the ball well and had very few open shots.
"We weren't making our layups early, and we weren't getting any easy shots," said Richards, who led McConnellsburg with 12 points. "Their trap was pretty tough. Every time you got the ball, they were on you. It was hard to even get the ball. If you found a skip pass, we could get around them, but it was not easy."
With the victory, Sewickley will face Homer-Center (26-0) in the second round. Homer-Center defeated Ridgway, 60-58, in four overtimes.
Despite the loss, McConnellsburg can't be disappointed in its season. After going 5-17 in 2013-14, the Spartans have now made the PIAA Tournament for two consecutive seasons.
"We come from two stoplights and a McDonald's; these kids are coming from the Pittsburgh area," Pollock said. "They have an established program, and we played with them. We kept preaching that we needed to change the program, and this group of seniors did that."
Sewickley Academy 45, McConnellsburg 25
Jake Boehme 0 0-0 0, Chase Novak 3 0-0 7, Landon Richards 4 0-0 12, Ian Cheatle 0 0-0 0, Ryan Koontz 1 1-2 3, Shawn Garlock 1 0-0 2, Quintin Miller 0 1-2 1, Chance Hawbaker 0 0-0 0, Ethan Barclay 0 0-2 0, Logan Little 0 0-0 0, Nic Culler 0 0-0 0, Patrick Keefer 0 0-0 0. Totals — 9 2-6 25.
Sewickley Academy (45)
Chris Groetsch 4 5-10 14, Nate Ridgeway 7 4-4 18, Dan Slater 1 0-0 2, Justin Pryor 2 1-2 5, Scott Brown 1 0-0 2, Dave Groetsch 0 0-0 0, Declan Hickton 0 3-4 3, Teddy McClain 0 0-0 0, Ryder Macdougall 0 1-2 1, Jared Washington 0 0-0 0, Matt Rooney 0 0-0 0, Jason Li 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 14-22 45.
McConnellsburg _ 10 _ 6 _ 4 _ 5 _ — _ 25
Sewickley Acad. _ 6 _ 11 _ 8 _ 20 _ — _ 45
3-point goals — McC 5 (Richards 4, Novak), SA 1 (C.Groetsch).