Mason Gross and Hassan Maxwell led a defensive effort that shut down Wyoming Area early and kept the Pittston Area boys basketball team rolling.
The Patriots won for the third time in four days with a 59-29 rout in the ninth annual Eugene R. DeMinico II Memorial Game at Wyoming Area.
“In the first few games, we weren’t real happy with our defense statistically,” Pittston Area coach Alan Keisinger said. “We’re trying to get back on track with that.
“That was an emphasis for the game today as well as (Friday) night’s game. We held them to 29 today and held Hanover Area to 38. We’re really trying to get back to that defensive identity.”
The second win in less than 24 hours evened the Pittston Area record at 3-3.
Gross earned the Most Valuable Player award for the game. He provided 18 points and four assists on the offensive end in addition to blocking four shots and getting 12 of his 16 rebounds on the defensive end despite sitting out the fourth quarter.
Maxwell did his part defensively with his work against Wyoming Area’s Jeremy Zezza, who entered the day averaging 21.7 points per game. Zezza was scoreless for the first 11:20 while only getting off one shot. Zezza did not get his only field goal until after the midway point of the third quarter while managing just five points.
“We knew Zezza was their best scorer,” Gross said. “Hassan Maxwell played Hanover Area’s best scorer last night and did a good job on him, trying to deny him. He did a good job once again. He’s a good defender.
“Then, on the drives, we just tried to help in the middle.”
Gross and Pittston Area did not need long to establish control.
The senior scored on one post move 19 seconds into the game and added another inside spin move to go along with a Maxwell three-point play in Pittston Area’s 7-0 start.
The Patriots opened leads of 17-2 with 1:22 left in the first quarter and 23-4 with 6:05 left in the half before freshman Ryan Shuleski came off the bench to spark a brief Wyoming Area surge.
Shuleski, who scored a game-high 15 points in a 43-41 overtime loss in the JV game, scored five points in his first 41 seconds of the varsity game to start a 10-2 run by the Warriors.
Gross put the Patriots back in control, scoring six points in a game-breaking, 10-1 run.
Evan Musto, who had the only four Wyoming Area points in the first quarter, hit two free throws to close the half with Pittston Area in front, 36-15.
Gross had 14 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots in the first half. On four of the blocks, he also managed to control the ball, cradling the rebound in the same motion.
Pittston Area scored the first nine points of the second half for a 45-15 advantage and both teams went deep into their benches from there. Both teams used 15 players.
Tyler McGarry added 12 points and seven rebounds for Pittston Area. Maxwell had nine points while Michael Schwab had five assists.
Shuleski, who was his team’s MVP, and Anthony Saitta, another freshman, led Wyoming Area with seven points each. Musto finished with six.
The game benefits the Hughestown K-9 Unit.