By Matt Popchock


5:47 PM – Usually Sunday is a day of rest for “Mr. High School Sports,” but with the WPIAL boys’ basketball season getting underway, there are plenty of tip-off tournaments to cover.

We’re live at Canon-McMillan High School for the championship game of the EQT Energy Classic between the host Big Macs (AAAA-Sec. 4) and their Washington County brethren, the Trinity Hillers (AAA-Sec. 5).

Speaking of brethren, some of my 93.7 The Fan co-workers have been here doing live callbacks (industry term) on the radio side, and I’ll be here for the next couple hours giving live updates from this final game of the weekend-long, eight-team tournament.

Canon-McMillan is coming off lopsided wins against Burgettstown (AA-Sec. 5) and Waynesburg (AAA-Sec. 5). Trinity blew out Allen Central (KY), then edged Class AAA Section 5 rival Washington to get here.

By the way, Washington hung on to beat Waynesburg a little while ago, 56-54, in what proved to be an exciting third-place game. Shooting guard Josh Wise “quarterbacked” the Prexies’ offense–pun fully intended–with a game-high 28 points, while forward Kolbi Phillips led the Red Raiders with 25 in defeat.

Waynesburg looked undaunted by Washington’s size, and played some good defense under the basket to stay in it. Washington missed a pair of potential game-clinching free throws, so the Raiders still had a shot, but they missed two three-pointers on their final possession and could not draw a foul before the buzzer as Washington got the game’s final rebound.

In this game, the players to watch are Canon-Mac’s two-guard, Brett Haney, and Trinity swingman Corey Hunsberger. Haney has showed good outside ability while firing in 36 points in his first two games of the new season, while Hunsberger has led Trinity’s charge with 41 in his first two outings.

We’re about 13 minutes from tip…

More to come…

5:50 – Just heard the theme from “Space Jam,” followed by “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Believe it or not, the song from a Looney Tunes movie is just as hard to get out of one’s head as Journey.

5:53 – One of the things I enjoy about basketball is seeing how the home student section dresses on a nightly basis. Nowadays they usually wear oblique, Halloween-esque costumes of some kind. A fragment the Canon-Mac student body is rolling into the bleachers that looks like what could be charitably described as a militia and a beekeeping unit rolled into one.

5:55 – Some familiar faces to my left in the press box, as we wait for the introduction of lineups: Mike Kovak of the Observer-Reporter (Steigy’s newspaper), and Don Rebel and Bob Gregg of the MSA Sports Network.

5:58 – Oh, and lest I forget…my man John Phillips from “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show” and the weekend sports updates on 93.7 The Fan is in the house too!

Elvis6:06 – Elvis is in the house! The Elvis impersonator who performed at last year’s tournament in Pikeville is at midcourt covering some tunes from The King. The start of the game has been delayed–why, I have no idea–by this shtick, and the Canon-Mac student body is getting into it…

6:20 – Okay, now that’s over. Not that we don’t appreciate free entertainment, but again, I don’t know why they didn’t save that till halftime. Now we have a check presentation ceremony for all the teams.

I am reminded of Steve Carell’s classic line from “The Office”: “One of my favorite things is fanfare for its own sake.” I’ll shut up now.

6:23 – The all-tournament team is being introduced (except for the Canon-Mac and Trinity nominees, of course). So we’re just a few minutes away from the start of the tournament final. We promise.

6:27 – National Anthem.

And fitting, it was sung by the Elvis impersonator…who I’m pretty sure pulled a Christina Aguilera. Had to throw that out there.

6:30 – Decent crowd on hand as both teams take the floor for a ten-minute warm-up period. Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Hope they have more of those meatball sandwiches from last night coming up here soon. If I had known better, I would’ve paused to go get one during “Love Me Tender”…

6:40 – Teams being introduced. Canon-McMillan in home whites, Trinity in traveling blues. Game on!

6:57 – End of 1st quarter, Canon-McMillan with a 12-10 edge. Big Macs ended the period on a 10-3 run. Trinity was getting good penetration early on, but Canon-Mac has tightened defensively. Jared Deep leads Hillers with 5 points 2 rebounds. Haney leads the Macs with 4 points.

7:02 – 4:46 left, 2nd quarter, Canon-Mac still up, 17-14. Neither team shooting particularly well. Deep has been strong off the glass, but the Big Macs aren’t as aggressive as they were earlier in the tournament, not following their shots much.

7:13 – It’s halftime, and Canon-Mac’s outside game has caught fire, enabling them to open up a 32-21 lead. Story of the quarter has been the offense feeding off the momentum of defense. A couple of three-balls off turnovers, and some missed opportunities by Trinity at the foul line.

7:18 – A young man tried to win a car, and unfortunately did not succeed. Anyway, Jared Deep had a good half for Trinity, 10 points and 5 boards. Showed good determination under the basket. Haney also ended the half with 10 points, including a pair of late threes, and Kenyaada Brown gave good support off the bench with 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist.

Canon-Mac needs to keep up its intensity, which seems to have Trinity a little rattled, and keep taking advantage of their mistakes. The Hillers need to shoot better as a team. Without Deep’s hard work, this might be another Big Macs blowout.

7:25 – Second half about to get underway, and the Big Macs will start with a chance to add to their lead, moving left to right.

7:27 – Early timeout taken by Rick Bell after a couple of Corey Hunsberger layups cut the lead to 32-25. Zach Wesolowski missing a couple of opportunities for the Big Macs down low, as the Hillers came out strong.

7:35 – 2:19 left, 3rd quarter, Canon-Mac’s lead cut to 39-36 after a three by Christian Koroly, his second of the night. 6 points, 3 assists for Hunsberger in the period. Some tough calls (and non-calls) going against the Big Macs, who have gotten sloppy with the ball, and Trinity has taken a page from their book by taking more shots from outside.

7:38 – Coach Bell not happy with his team after having to burn a timeout off an inbound play. 1:47 left, 3rd quarter, same score.

Haney is on the bench, so this is a good time for Trinity to make a move…

7:41 – Three-point play by Kenyaada Brown after drawing a foul. Haney now back in.

7:43 – Berton Miller’s buzzer beater pulls Trinity within one possession. 42-39 Big Macs after three quarters. Miller has 9 points, all off threes, all in that last quarter. Poor job by Canon-Mac not getting a hand in his face as he drove the floor.

Brown was the Big Macs’ best player, driving the baseline and getting some big points. If I’m Canon-McMillan, I get the ball inside to him or Haney and attack…which is what they just did…

7:50 – 5:50 left, 44-42 Canon-Mac. Brown and big man Wesolowski in foul trouble with four apiece; Brown picked up two quick ones early in the quarter. Canon-McMillan not catching many breaks from the zebras, but their defense and good work off the boards is keeping them ahead.

7:55 – 2:50 left, 4th quarter, 48-45. Trinity at the line with one free throw pending. They haven’t shot all that well from the charity stripe, but on the other hand, Canon-Mac has done a good job staying within itself most of the quarter, with the Hillers having been in the bonus for the majority of the period.

7:57 – 2:14 left, 50-49 Big Macs. Another three by Miller, and Canon-Mac then turns it over…

8:00 – Illegal screen on Deep. Six team fouls for the Hillers with 1:40 left.

8:02 – Matt Douglas with a big field goal for the home team, but he commits a foul moments later. Deep hits one of two free throws, Trinity wins jump ball. Game tied at 52, 30 seconds left…timeout Hillers. Impressive comeback by Trinity, which has executed better and picked up its game collectively in the second half. Hunsberger, as previously noted, has come to life, now with 14 points, 11 in this half.

8:04 – Trinity burns another timeout, and also burns 27 seconds in the process without getting a shot off. 3.9 to go till a possible overtime…

8:06 – And overtime it shall be; four minutes till we have a winner. 52-52 after regulation; Koroly was double teamed in the corner, and David Williams of Canon-McMillan stole the ball as time expired.

9 fouls for the Big Macs, and 6 for Trinity to begin the fourth period…

8:13 – 19.9 seconds left in OT number one…and we’re still looking for our first points. Both teams deliberate on offense, but nothing to show for their patience. Trinity has just used its only allotted timeout of the period.

Trinity, by the way, in the double bonus.

8:18 – Congratulations to Rick Bell and the Canon-McMillan Big Macs, who stave off Trinity 53-52 in the finals of the EQT Energy Classic. David Williams picked the pocket of Christian Koroly with five seconds left and was hacked on his way in for a potential winning layup, missed the first free throw, but made the second with 1.7 seconds left. The Hillers couldn’t get off a clean shot before time ran out.

More on this game to come later at…

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