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HERSHEY – Sewickley Academy kept looking for a sign that the game was turning its way.
The Panthers weathered charge after charge from Constitution in the PIAA 2A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center until it came.
“They came over to the bench and I knew we were in good shape,” said Panthers head coach Win Palmer. “We were no longer climbing the mountain.”
That was at the end of regulation with the score tied 59-59. Constitution had leads of 12 points in the first quarter, eight points at halftime and six with 2:25 left in the game, only to give them all back.
Still, to get to overtime, the SA needed yet another defensive stop.
After a Constitution timeout with the score tied at 59-59, the Generals turned over their chance to win to dynamic guard Tamir Green.
But Green could only manage an off-balance jump shot that missed the mark to send the game to overtime.
SA took it from there, outscoring Constitution 9-4 in overtime to win 68-63.
It is Sewickley Academy’s third state title in basketball. The WPIAL champions finished the season 26-4.
Panther guard Justin Pryor, who scored 21 points and had eight rebounds, found Chris Groetsch open for a layup to start the overtime and the Panthers were on their way.
“We scored first,” Palmer said. “Our guys are so good with the lead.”
Pryor and Nate Ridgway, who scored 16 points, spearheaded a lock-down man-to-man defense that made Green work for his 21 points.
“We stuck to our defensive principles,” said Pryor. “We realized we could play with these guys.”
Even after Constitution’s Maurice Waters scored 12 of the first 16 points to give the Generals a 16-4 lead, SA grinded it out on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor to draw even at 23-23.
Waters finished the game with 19 points.
The Colonels closed out the first half with eight unanswered. But SA recovered to grab a 34-33 lead midway through the third quarter.
It’s was back-and-forth the rest of the way.
“If we go down by 15 there was no way we could come back,” said Palmer. “We just had to help (on defense). That’s the way we played all year long. Our guys kept running the offense.”
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Green was determined to win the game all by himself.
He scored the last 12 points for Constitution in the fourth quarter but missed the front end of two one-and-one free throw opportunities. He scored all four points for Constitution in overtime.
In its fourth state championship game since 2012, District 12 runnerup Constitution finished the season 20-10.