SCRANTON — Abington Heights wanted to slow the pace while JP McCaskey preferred to race up and down the court.
McCaskey’s fast tempo ultimately prevailed as the Red Tornados held off the Comets, 50-46, in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class 4A boys basketball playoffs on Saturday, March 5 at Marywood University.
Ricky Cruz scored eight points and Kobe Gantz added seven in the first quarter when McCaskey jumped out to a 15-7 lead.
“We got down early in the game because we played at their pace and it was hard to come back,” Abington Heights guard Jordan Hollander said.
Abington Heights freshman forward George Tinsley scored all five of his points in the second quarter when the Comets cut the deficit to 22-18.
Comets 6-foot-11 junior center Seth Maxwell scored six points, including a dunk off a pass from Hollander, during an 8-2 run to start the second half that gave Abington Heights a 26-24 lead with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
Maxwell scored 10 of his 19 points in the third. He also contributed 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We knew we had to pick up our play in the second half,” Maxwell said. “We executed our offense better and were getting stops on defense. We also cut down on our turnovers, but they came back in the end.”
Abington Heights 6-foot-8 senior forward Tim Toro scored the first four points of the fourth quarter and a basket from Maxwell gave the Comets a 36-35 lead midway through the fourth.
“Win or lose, we all wanted to give everything we had,” Toro said. “It just didn’t work out the way we wanted in the end.”
Cruz answered with a basket to put McCaskey back ahead and Jathan Gonzalez followed with a 3-pointer to give the Red Tornados a four point lead with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
A rebound and slam from Maxwell cut Abington Heights’ deficit to one point with 1:50 left in the game, but Gonzalez knocked down another 3-pointer and Gantz made three free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal the win for JP McCaskey (22-6).
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Gantz said. “The team who can handle the momentum shifts best usually come out with the victory.”
Toro, who scored more than 1,000 points during his career, added 11 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.
Abington Heights ends the season with a 23-3 record.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the whole season,” Toro said. “I’m proud of our accomplishments and the effort we gave.”