Old Forge’s Mario Martinelli shoots against Faith Christian.photo by BILL TARUTIS
Old Forge forward Dom Avvisato drives to the basket against Faith Christian in the first round of the PIAA state tournament at Marywood University on Friday night.photo by BILL TARUTIS
Old Forge put the high-octane offense of Faith Christian on lockdown Friday night as it continued its post-season defensive dominance.
The Blue Devils held the Lions to just 31 percent shooting from the field – and without a field goal for the first 10 minutes of the game – as it led from start to finish in a 42-37 victory in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A Championships on Friday night at Marywood University.
Coach Al Semenza’s cagers dictated the tempo on both ends of the floor from the opening tip to the final buzzer – and it started and finished with defense.
Old Forge frustrated the Faith Christian offense with its patented zone defense on the opening possession as the Lions turned the ball over as it struggled to find an opening in the 2-3 alignment.
Tony Goodall then buried a three-pointer from the left corner at the Insalaco Center to give the Blue Devils a lead it would not relinquish just 70 seconds into the game.
The Blue Devils continued to frustrate the Lions throughout the first quarter on the defensive end, limiting Faith Christian to just three shots. Old Forge countered on the offensive end by playing its patient style as Goodall swished another three from the top of the key for a 6-2 lead halfway through the first. Connor Fultz added his first basket of the night at the 2:43 mark, and Old Forge took an 8-3 lead after the first eight minutes of action.
Old Forge pushed its lead to 10-5 with 5:48 left in the second quarter as Dom Avvisato put back an offensive rebound. Avvisato and the Blue Devils controlled the glass against the bigger, more athletic Lions. The 6-foot-2 senior center grabbed a game-high six boards as Old Forge won the rebounding battle, 21-10.
Faith Christian (19-7) finally put the ball in the basket when Dylan Papernick took a rebound away from Avvisato at the 4:35 mark of the second stanza to get the Lions within, 10-7.
But after Mario Martinelli made 1-of-2 free throws, Avvisato came right back with a layup off of a feed from Martinelli to give Old Forge a 14-7 advantage.
The Lions responded with a 5-1 run to end the half as Tyler Rockmore drained a three, and Trey Riddick buried two free throws to get Faith within 15-12 at the break, and give the visitors some momentum heading into the locker room.
Goodall took that advantage away quickly to open the second half.
The senior buried back-to-back three-pointers from the left corner to give the Blue Devils some breathing room with a 21-14 lead at the 5:55 mark of the third quarter.
Faith closed to within 21-17 just 30 seconds later, but Connor Fultz scored on a pass from Martinelli, and Avvisato scored twice inside to put Old Forge (17-7) ahead, 27-19 with 3:14 left in the third.
From there it was all Fultz for the rest of the quarter as the Lions concentrated on stopping Goodall and Avvisato. The 6-foot senior made two free throws and then completed a three-point play to give the Blue Devils its biggest margin of the night at 32-21 heading into the final stanza. Fultz scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter.
The teams traded buckets as Old Forge kept its 11-point lead with 5:41 left in the game. Faith Christian nibbled at the lead from the free throw line, getting to within six at 34-28 with 3:24 remaining in the game.
Goodall stopped the mini-run with two free throws to push the lead back to eight, but the Lions came right back and drilled back-to-back three pointers around three-missed free throws by the Blue Devils to get within 36-34 with 1:40 showing on the clock.
Faith sent Goodall to the line again, and the senior delivered with two more free throws before Greg Boyd drained his second straight triple to get the District 1 runner-up within 38-37 with 52 seconds left.
But Goodall would finish the Lions off at the free throw line, making all four attempts in the final 42 seconds as Faith missed two long three-point attempts to end the contest.
Goodall finished with a game-high 21 points – including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Avvisato added 10 points, and Fultz, Martinelli and Tim McGrath each pulled in four rebounds for the Blue Devils.
Old Forge will now face Reading Central Catholic in the Eastern Quarterfinals on Tuesday night at a site and time to be determined. The Cards are the fourth-ranked team in the state according to the Harrisburg Patriot News.
The District 3 champions feature Division I recruits 6-foot-9 center Donovan Jack and 6-foot-4 guard Marcus Dawkins. And oh by the way, RCC also puts 6-foot-4 forward Marquis Marshall – son of UConn great and forrmer NBA player Donyell Marshall – on the floor.
Should the Blue Devils pull the upset, they would face the winner of the Mansfield (21-5) v. Constitution High (23-5) game on Friday, March 18. The Patriot News has Constitution High – the District 12 champion – as the No. 1 Class 1A team in the state.