With 28 seconds left Friday night and the lead comfortable enough, the contingent of Pittston Area students broke out the “Maybe next year” chant.
Pittston Area’s Mason Gross was thinking something else while sitting on the bench at halftime, his feet moving so rapidly that his entire body shook. Maybe, the senior center thought, it’s going to be like two years ago.
As much as history tried to repeat itself in the same Wyoming Area gym, Pittston Area was able to keep its District 2 Class 3A quarterfinal game in the present and knock off second-seeded Crestwood 48-38.
The seventh-seeded Patriots (17-7) avenged two losses earlier in the season to Crestwood (20-4) and snapped a three-game losing streak against the Comets. They will play third-seeded GAR (19-5) on Tuesday in the semifinals.
Pittston Area led 21-11 at halftime. But they also had an 11-point lead late in the second quarter two years ago, only to see Crestwood rally for a 49-37 victory. So Gross, who played in that game, had legitimate concerns.
“It was just anticipation,” said Gross, who led all scorers with 17 points. “It was like two years ago when we played here. Same game — Crestwood at W.A. Similar type of situation, up a lot at halftime and we crapped that one away. So I was just focused and didn’t want the same thing to happen again.”
The game started heading that way when Crestwood’s Cole Wasco hit an NBA-range three-pointer with 6:01 to play to cut the Pittston Area lead to 32-26. Pittston Area coach Alan Kiesinger called a timeout, and the Patriots regrouped and refocused.
“There was a point I called a timeout and the crowd went absolutely bananas,” Kiesinger said. “That’s probably the best timeout of my career. I think that was the moment I thought ‘OK, this can get away from us.’”
Instead, the rally attempt got away from the Comets, who missed a couple opportunities to slice into the deficit. Then their top player, Chris Fazzini, fouled out with 4:16 remaining. Pittston Area was able to bump its lead back to 10 points and kept it in that range the rest of the way.
“He gets to the hoop, he’s our slasher,” Crestwood coach Mark Atherton said. “It would have been nice to see what we could have done with him, but that’s part of the game. We got it down to six with those two threes and coming out of a timeout they scored. I told our guys that’s one where you have to get a stop.”
Pittston Area never had a lead in the two previous matchups this season. But after the teams exchanged baskets to open the game, Gross hit a three-pointer to trigger a 19-5 Pittston Area run that extended late into the second quarter.
The Patriots finished the first quarter with 15 points, one more than in the two first quarters combined in the first two meetings.
“We lost a tough one at Crestwood and then the next one we came out late and kind of lazy and they gave us a beatdown,” said Pittston Area swingman Tyler McGarry, who added 15 points. “Our focus tonight was to come out hot and shut them down. That’s exactly what we did and we got a big ‘W’ and moving on.”
Hassan Maxwell added 12 for Pittston Area. Fazzini scored 12 for Crestwood and was the only Comet in double figures.
Pittston Area will play in the D2-3A semifinals for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Crestwood saw its streak of two consecutive semifinal appearances end.
Pittston Area 49, Tunkhannock 39
Mason Gross scored 25 points as Pittston Area defeated Tunkhannock 49-39 in a District 2 Class 3A boys basketball first round game Wednesday.
Tyler McGarry had 13 for the seventh-seeded Patriots, who will play second-seeded Crestwood on Friday.
Adam Billings paced Tunkhannock with 12 points. One of the Wyoming Valley Conference’s leading scorers, Austin Yanora, was limited by Pittston Area leader Michael Schwab to just 11.