By Matt Popchock
The EQT Energy Classic, one of several tip-off tournaments christening the 2011-12 WPIAL basketball season this weekend, started with a bang, not to mention a thud.
Brett Haney pumped in four of Canon-McMillan’s nine three-pointers and led the host Big Macs with 16 points in a 64-32 rout of Class AA Burgettstown in Friday’s nightcap. Pikeville (KY), which had hosted and won the 2010 tournament, was upset by Washington, which rallied late for a 56-53 win in the penultimate game of the evening.
Canon-Mac’s perimeter shooting and aggressive defense, which set the tone for its blowout victory, was too much for the Blue Devils. The Big Macs cleaned the glass on both ends and generated points off turnovers to take a 27-10 halftime lead.
How good was that defense? Burgettstown didn’t make a “traditional” field goal until 1:45 into the third quarter.
“I was really impressed by our intensity, especially in the second quarter,” said head coach Rick Bell, whose team allowed just a single point in that period. “We graduated three kids who averaged a combined 40 points, so from day one I’ve told our guys that we need to be a great defensive team. I’m doing that to take the pressure off them early on, in case we struggle offensively.”
But there weren’t many struggles to point to in this lid-lifter. Canon-Mac’s bench also gave its coach some good minutes, led by Evan Beech’s eight points and six rebounds.
“In our section, we’re kind of like a bunch of no-names, and I mean that in a positive way,” Bell said. “For us to be successful it has to be the sum of the parts, not anybody individually.”
Canon-McMillan faces Class AAA Waynesburg in the semifinals Saturday night at 8:00. The Red Raiders knocked off Class A West Greene 69-51 in the first game of the tournament, led by Ty Negley and his game-high 19 points.
Meanwhile, Washington advanced by erasing a 51-45 deficit with four minutes left in the game. Eric Ellis broke a 53-53 deadlock with a pair of free throws in the final minute.
Ellis led all with 22 points and ten rebounds, and Jordan Drew, who had missed twice from the line on Washington’s previous possession, redeemed himself with a game-clinching defensive rebound, as Will Barnham, who also had 22, missed a three-pointer that would have given the Panthers the lead.
Washington meets Class AAA Section 5 rival Trinity in the other semifinal at 6:00. The new-look Hillers defeated Allen Central (KY) 79-59 behind 20 points from Cory Hunsberger, along with 16 and ten boards from Christian Koroly.
Burgettstown takes on West Greene in the first consolation semifinal of the day at 1:00 P.M. Saturday, with Pikeville and Allen Central meeting in the second consolation semifinal immediately thereafter.
Check of the official EQT Energy Classic website for more info, and check out the “Mr. High School Sports” blog later for more updates!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)