Pittston Area raced down the court. A quick pass to Hassan Maxwell and — bang — a three-pointer.
The Patriots had withstood Abington Heights’ first salvo Friday night. The second barrage, though, never seemed to let up.
Abington scored 22 of the next 26 points, take full command to win the District 2 Class 3A boys basketball championship with a 67-28 victory at Lackwanna College.
Both teams will move to the Class 3A state tournament that starts Friday. Abington (25-1) will play District 4 runner-up Central Columbia (18-6) or Shamokin (21-3). Those teams played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Shikellamy High School. Pittston Area (18-8) will play District 3 third seed Bishop McDevitt (26-2).
“That was the best team I’ve seen in my life to be honest with you,” said Pittston Area center Mason Gross, who finished with a team-high nine points. “When (J.C.) Show is running like that. Their bigs dominated us on the boards. And they beat us in transition. That’s all it took.”
Those elements were there early as the Comets scored the game’s first eight points. Pittston Area regrouped and Maxwell’s three-pointer pulled the Patriots within 12-10 at 1:34 of the first quarter.
Then came a three-pointer by Joe Carroll, triggering an avalanche of points. Evan Maxwell, Abington’s 6-foot-10 center, opened the second quarter with a one-step dunk as the Comets outscored Pittston Area 17-6 in those eight minutes to take a 34-16 lead into halftime.
“We fought back,” Pittston Area coach Alan Kiesinger said. “(Hassan) Maxwell hit an early three to cut the lead … and then it got away from us again. They have so much firepower. Then we went away from our offense and that hurt us. It got too much out of control.”
As usual, Show was the guy sending an opponent into chaos. The Bucknell recruit scored a game-high 27, with many coming on contorted drives to the basket. The Comets defense was equally tough, holding Pittston Area to two field goals in the second half. The Patriots shot 6-of-30 through three quarters as Abington build its lead to 50-22 entering the fourth.
“We were able to get some easy buckets, some transition buckets, get some flow,” Show said. “The dunk at the end of the half really energized us. We’re a good defensive team. We’re big, we’re long, we have decent quickness in the defensive front.”
Pittston Area tried to neutralize Evan Maxwell by using Gross at the point. That drew Abington’s big man out of the paint, but the Comets quickly cut off any cutting lanes to the basket,.
“We wanted to run a little bit of clock, too,” Kiesinger said. “I told the guys before the game the clock is our friend. We got a little impatient when we went to that offense. I didn’t want to hold the ball, but there are things we do out of that particular set that we didn’t get to because we were impatient.
Pittston Area got to the championship game with an upset win over two seed GAR Tuesday night at Wilkes University.
Mason Gross scored 15 points and Tyler McGarry added 12 in a 45-42 victory. The Patriots started the game on a 9-0 run, aided by a pair of James Emmett triples. He finished the game with 10 points. But it was the Patriots’ defense for the second straight game that propelled them to the title game.
Kiesinger was more pleased how Emmett closed things. He drew the assignment of guarding Francis, the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II MVP. Francis finished with 15 points, with nine coming in the fourth quarter.
“James Emmett did a phenomenal job defensively,” Kiesinger said. “Talk about a challenge. (Francis) is so long and athletic and talented. He can kill you from the outside, he can kill you from the inside, he can hurt you driving the basket. I give James a ton of credit for stepping up and being able to contain him a little bit.”