BERWICK — Fourth-seeded Abington Heights blitzed top seed Hazleton Area early by scoring 11 of the first 14 points of the game and the Comets held on for a 62-53 win in the semifinals on the District 2-4 Class 4A subregional boys basketball playoffs Friday night.
After the Comets ran off nine straight points to start the game, Hazleton’s Bobby Planutis hit a 3-pointer with 4:17 left in the first. Hazleton Area shot 1-12 in the first quarter when Abington Heights took an 18-4 lead.
“That was very important,” Abington Heights head coach Ken Bianchi said of his team’s early lead. “We knew we had to jump on them early. We figured to win the game we had to cut down on our turnovers and take away their transition game.”
Hazleton Area (19-4) started the second quarter on a 10-3 run to cut the deficit to seven points with 3:40 remaining in the first half, but the Comets closed the quarter strong to lead 29-19.
Seth Maxwell had 16 points, seven blocks and six rebounds for the Comets, including a slam off a pass from Jackson Danzig to start the third quarter. The Comets scored six of his first seven points of the third to take a 35-20 lead.
Abington Heights (22-2) converted three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to take a 53-39 advantage. Colin Klingman had four of his five assists in the quarter.
“At the end of the third quarter and the fourth, (Klingman) started taking the ball up the court and it paid dividends,” Bianchi said.
Bobby Planutis scored five of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. Michael Cusatis also scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth for the Cougars.
“We played the way we wanted to play and needed to play,” Hazleton Area head coach Mike Joseph said. “I thought we forced a lot of turnovers and I thought our young guys gave us a tremendous amount of energy. Our seniors, unfortunately, are going out on a bit of a sour note, but they have a lot to be proud of.”
Abington Heights forward Tim Toro highlighted his game-high 22-point effort by scoring the 1,000th point of his career on a free throw in the final minute.
“It’s excellent,” Toro said of getting the win and milestone. “I’m very blessed to have had this opportunity from freshman year all the way up to my senior year.
“I think we wanted it a little bit more than they did,” Toro added. “We were a little upset with our seeding, but I think we showed that we should not have been placed as the fourth seed.”
Abington Heights will play second-seeded Williamsport (15-8), who defeated Wyoming Valley West, 94-66, for the subregional championship and a trip to the state playoffs at 8 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Mohegian Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.
The Comets will be playing in a championship game for the fifth consecutive season, having won the previous four title games.
“They believe in the system,” Bianchi said. “They stay patient and run the offense.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.