By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
Lourdes Regional coach Pete Long wanted to see some mental toughness out of his young boys basketball team as they opened the District 4 Class A playoffs on the road at Meadowbrook Christian School.
“There were games this year that we lost because we didn’t have mental toughness and we didn’t take care of the ball down the stretch,” Long said.
Tuesday night in the Christ Wesleyan Church Auditorium, the Lions gave the Red Raiders every opportunity to fold and end its season.
Meadowbrook Christian rallied from a double-digit third-quarter deficit to tie the game, but Lourdes Regional answered with a run of its own, then executed down the stretch in the fourth quarter to hold off the Lions, 51-43.
“One of the keys of the game was mental toughness. They have good guards and we knew they could score in spurts,” Long said. “When they tied at 34-34 and we went on that run late (in the third), I thought that was the key part of the game.”
Lourdes Regional improves to 12-11 on the season and will travel to No. 3-seed Sullivan County (17-5) at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
Meadowbrook Christian drops to 20-6, but heads to Cambria Country Christian to play in Allegheny Christian Athletic Association Tournament this weekend. The Lions, the East Division winner, will play the winner of Columbia County Christian and Huntingdon Christian Academy at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Meadowbrook Christian got off to a quick start against the Red Raiders opening up a five-point lead, out-rebounding bigger Lourdes Regional and getting two 3-pointers from Austin Schott to take a 14-9 lead.
The Red Raiders appeared to take control of the game in the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points to open up a five-point advantage after a 3-pointer by Jordan Fobia halfway through the quarter. The Lions would be limited to one field goal in the second quarter as Lourdes Regional outscored them 18-2 to take a 27-16 lead at the break on Kenny Pawelizyk three-point play with six seconds left in the half.
“We didn’t commit to our defense in the second quarter,” Meadowbrook Christian coach Rod Baughman said. “We missed assignments. Our close outs (on 3-pointers) we were up off our feet. We allowed some uncontested baseline layups.”
Larry Czeponis’ bucket early in the third quarter gave the Red Raiders a 29-18 advantage before the Lions’ answered. Tyler Baughman’s four-point play with 4:38 left in the third, started a 13-3 run that saw Meadowbrook Christian tie the game at 34-34 on Kurtis Klodnicki’s pretty left-handed post layup with 2:26 left in the game.
Lourdes Regional had an answer, putting together a quick 6-0 spurt over the final 44 seconds of the third quarter to take a 40-34 advantage into the final stanza.
The Lions would get no closer than five points in the fourth quarter, the last time on Schott’s steal and layup with 26 seconds left, but Meadowbrook Christian was hurt by its struggles at the foul line and the Red Raiders’ potency at the charity stripe. The Lions were just 6-of-17 from the line, including 4-of-10 in the second half. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders 9-of-12 from the line the fourth, including 7-of-8 over the final 42 seconds.
Fobia led Lourdes Regional with 14 points and added eight rebounds. Czeponis chipped in 11 points and eight boards. Point guard Mike Gilger had eight points and six assists, while Luke Holleran finished with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Schott had 16 points to lead the Lions, Klodnicki added nine and Baughman eight.