More: Jim Seip column: Bearcats showed promise despite state loss

COATESVILLE -- If there ever was a moment when a desperate, furious comeback attempt would be slammed shut, it was this one:

With William Penn's improbable 27-win season in jeopardy almost from the outset Wednesday night, the Bearcats finally began awakening in the third quarter of their PIAA Class AAAA playoff game.

And with 18 seconds remaining before the final period, Derek Wilson's second free throw attempt rattled in and out.

St. Joseph's Prep pushed the ball back up the floor.

And sharp-shooter Kyle Thompson swished a 3-pointer from the left side as the horn sounded.

William Penn’s DaiQuest Casiano (2) shoots over several St. Joseph’s Prep defenders during Wedneday’s PIAA Class AAAA second-round game
William Penn's DaiQuest Casiano (2) shoots over several St. Joseph's Prep defenders during Wedneday's PIAA Class AAAA second-round game at Coatesville Area Senior High School. (Foir the Daily Record/Sunday News -- Jeff Lautenberger)

And that was about that.

Instead of trailing by 11, the Bearcats were, once again, down by 15.

So the final eight minutes of their 72-55 loss seemed to be played only because it had to. William Penn didn't give up, it just realized that this could not be its night.

It marked the end of yet another stunningly successful season for coach Troy Sowers and his team.

It also was the end of a career for seniors such as Derek Wilson, Ohsajid Beard and Tavon Parker.

"It's depressing, it's a sick feeling," said Parker, the 20.6-points-per-game scorer who was held to 13.

"For the season to be over is devastating, but for my high school career to be over is sort of unreal. . . . The relationships you build at this level, they're over. It's sort of unreal."

Actually, things began unraveling almost immediately for the Bearcats on this night. They turned the ball over continuously in the opening quarter and were playing lethargic on both ends of the court, Sowers said.

And things didn't get much better in the second. The Bearcats trailed 31-15 at halftime.

The worst news was their two senior stars, Parker and Wilson, had combined for only four points and Wilson already had three fouls.

"They probably shot over 70 percent from the field and knocked down three after three," Parker said. "So it was tough to mount a comeback when they're consistently knocking down shots."

St. Joe's has the benefit of elite talent, for sure. Steve Vasturia, a 6-foot-5 senior, will be playing at Notre Dame next season and 6-4 senior Miles Overton is headed to Wake Forest.

And they did combine for 27 points and plenty of rebounding.

But it really was Thompson's shooting that never allowed even a more determined, more aggressive William Penn effort in the third quarter from making enough impact.

Thompson hit three 3-pointers overall, hit most every clutch shot, and finished with a game-high 19 points.

Of course, that buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close out the third quarter, is included.

"That took the momentum back from us," Parker said.

"He had the dagger all night," Sowers said.

Even when the effort seemed even on both sides, the Bearcats couldn't get enough jumpers or inside shots to fall in. They missed too many foul shots.

Afterwards, Sowers tried to make sense of how such an impressive season could have ended in with such a lopsided defeat.

"Sometimes, the style of a team makes you look bad," he said. "They play pretty good defense. That was the best match-up zone or sagging-man (defense) that we've seen all year."

Then, for the next 10 minutes, he stood in a hallway of this nearly empty high school gym and talked about how difficult it would be to let this team go.

They won 27 games despite losing their top three scorers from last year.

They lost only four times despite being in so many close games at the end.

"Love of teammate is what makes that happen," Sowers said. "If you don't love your teammates you can't win close games."

On Wednesday night in the second round of the PIAA playoffs?

They just ran into better shooters and maybe even better defenders, and things never really were close.

And the season ended.

Another season worth remembering for so much more than this one night.

WILLIAM PENN (55)
   D. Wilson 2 3-4 8, Casiano 0 0-0 0, Rivera 0 0-0 0, Maddox 1 0-0 2, Stephens 3 1-2 7, S. Dickson 1 0-0 2, Jackson 1 1-2 3, Beard 3 0-0 6, Shifflett 0 1-2 1, Jahaire Wilson 6 1-3 13, Tavon Parker 5 2-4 13, D. Dickson 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 9-17 55.
ST. JOSEPH'S PREP (72)
    Miles Overton 5 0-0 12, P.J. Kelly 2 4-4 10, Nedber 0 0-0 0, Kyle Thompson 5 6-7 19, Wail 0 0-0 0, Dan Sherry 2 1-2 5, Chris Clover 2 6-8 10, Stewart 0 0-0 0, MacWilliams 0 0-0 0, Steve Vasturia 3 8-9 15, Hueber 0 1-2 1, Macon 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 20-32 72.
William Penn     7    8  16  24 -- 55
St. Joe's Prep   15  16  15  26 -- 72
   3-point goals -- William Penn 2 (D. Wilson, Parker); St. Joe's 8 (Thompson 3, Overton 2, Kelly 2, Vasturia).