The Red Tornado ended thier playoff run with a 64-56 loss to Simon Gratz in the second round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs. Video by Josh Keagy.
COATESVILLE – Lynard Stewart knows talent when he sees it, and the Simon Gratz first-year boys’ basketball coach had nothing but love for McCaskey star Kobe Gantz.
Gantz was going to get his, Stewart said of Wednesday night’s PIAA Class AAAA second-round battle at Coatesville High School in Chester County. So the goal was to slow down the rest of the Red Tornado.
That effective plan, coupled with an explosive fourth quarter, enabled the Bulldogs from the Philadelphia Public League to dismiss McCaskey 64-56 in what had been a back-and-forth battle.
“We’ve been practicing all week long like [Gantz is] gonna go,” said Stewart, a teammate of former NBA star Rasheed Wallace in the early 1990s at Simon Gratz. “He’s gonna shoot, he’s gonna go to the hole, he’s good with the ball. It wasn’t anything we could assimilate in practice, but we knew we matched up evenly with them.
“We knew he was going to get his; we just had to focus on other guys not making a huge impact on the game.”
The Bulldogs (17-9), the third seed out of District 12, advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals where they’ll meet District 1 champ Plymouth-Whitemarsh, a 58-44 winner over Bangor in another Wednesday night contest.
Gantz, still undecided on where he’ll suit up next, scored a game-high 23 points in his career finale for McCaskey (22-7). He added seven rebounds, three assists and five steals.
“It’s been a good ride,” he said. “I met a lot of my great friends here. Outside of basketball, it was a great thing, helping me become a better man. On the basketball end, you see different perspectives in the way you play, different refs, different styles of coaching, everything. It’s just been a great experience for me.”
Gantz and Randolph Speller, both 1,000-point scorers, were the two senior starters for Steve “Bird” Powell this season. Speller finished with six points, four rebounds and four assists in his final game.
But Simon Gratz showed too much firepower in the fourth quarter, exploding for 30 points to run away from the Red Tornado.
After a Gantz 3-pointer and William Joseph put-back gave McCaskey a 45-42 lead with 5+ minutes left, the Bulldogs engaged in a game-changing 14-2 run.
That was highlighted by 3-pointers from Jamal Goode (seven points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals) and Johnny Eden (13 points, seven rebounds), plus two points and a couple of dimes from Tariq Meredith (19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).
“We’ve been in this position all year, down by six going into the fourth,” Stewart said of his team’s 40-34 deficit entering the final stanza. “These are the games that we win. We’ll make plays. We’ll keep pushing, because we’re a great defensive team. It seems like the fourth quarter is our quarter. We get loose balls, we make plays, we get into defensive position, get rebounds, make big shots. That’s just us, a fourth-quarter team.”
Said Gantz: “We have similar teams, similar styles of play. I kind of knew it was going to happen. We just wanted to weather the storm a little bit. [But] sometimes it can’t happen like that.”
Nasir Campbell added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Greg Nunez totaled eight points and 10 rebounds for the Tornado, with eight more points and four assists from Izaiah Baratta. A Nunez-to-Baratta bucket had given McCaskey its largest lead, 40-32, late in the third quarter.
Simon Gratz outscored McCaskey 32-16 from that point forward to make sure the Red Tornado would not at least repeat last year’s run to the PIAA semifinals.
Morrow on Twitter: @RageAgainstGMo
Simon Gratz 64, McCaskey 56
Kobe Gantz 7-14 6-10 23, Ricky Cruz 2-9 0-0 5, Izaiah Baratta 4-9 0-0 8, Greg Nunez 2-5 4-4 8, Randolph Speller 2-9 0-0 6, Jathan Gonzalez 0-1 0-2 0, Omar Baskerville 0-2 0-0 0, William Joseph 2-2 2-5 6. Totals — 19-51 12-21 56.
SIMON GRATZ (64)
Jamal Goode 3-8 0-0 7, Tariq Meredith 7-11 4-4 19, Johnny Eden 5-13 0-0 13, Rashon Johnson 2-7 0-1 4, Nasir Campbell 6-8 1-4 13, Isaiah Wallace 0-0 0-0 0, Harvy Lath 0-2 0-0 0, Kevin Tilghman 2-5 4-6 8. Totals — 25-54 9-15 64.
McCaskey _ 13 _ 11 _ 16 _ 16 _ — _ 56
Simon Gratz _ 15 _ 8 _ 11 _ 30 _ — _ 64
3-point goals — McC 6-20 (Gantz 3-4, Speller 2-7, Cruz 1-6, Baratta 0-1, Gonzalez 0-1, Baskerville 0-1); SG 5-15 (Eden 3-10, Meredith 1-2, Goode 1-3).Rebounds – McC 34 (Nunez 10); SG 36 (Campbell 9). Assists – McC 13 (Baratta 4, Speller 4); SG 18 (Meredith 7). Steals – McC 6 (Gantz 5); SG 8 (Goode 4).Blocks – McC 3 (Cruz, Nunez, Joseph); SG 3 (Johnson 2). Turnovers – McC 13; SG 10. Fouls – McC 14; SG 19. Fouled out: None.