District 9 basketball playoffs: Union 65, Port A 44

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
February 26, 2009

When the District 9 boys’ basketball playoff pairings were released, last Wednesday night’s game between seventh-seeded Port Allegany and No. 10 Union promised an intriguing contrast between the Knights’ fast-paced, high-scoring offense, led by 1,000-point scorer Scott Booth, and a stout Gator defense allowing a district-low 42.4 points per game.

As it turned out, an old adage was proven true: speed kills. Despite a relatively quiet night for Booth, who picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and sat out the rest of the half, the Knights lit up the scoreboard in the Port High gym en route to a 65-44 upset, earning a rematch with KSAC North Division foe Keystone in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“I knew coming in that they really get the ball up and down the floor, and it was going to be a key for us to be able to get back and be able to get out defense set up. Their speed was just a little too much for us,” Port coach Bob Raudenbush admitted afterward.

The visitors caused several early Port turnovers, taking advantage of them to open up a quick 10-2 lead halfway through the first quarter and force a quick timeout by Raudenbush. The Gators settled down after that, cutting the Union advantage to 17-12 on Greg Gustin’s driving layup just before the end of the first quarter.

Part of Port’s game plan was to take the ball right at Booth and try to get him in foul trouble, and it worked, as the junior guard/forward went to the bench just 1:04 into the second period. But the Gators missed both free throws – a common occurrence, as the team shot 0-for-6 early on and finished the game 2-for-10 at the line. And at the other end, the Union offense didn’t seem to miss a beat without their star player, extending the lead to 32-20 at the half.

“We have some good players, but when Scott’s in there, they look for him more. When he’s not in there, someone else has to shoot it. Not that I want Scott on the bench, but when he is on the bench, I think it actually helps our team at times. It gives us more confidence, makes the kids feel more secure with themselves,” Union coach Karen Davis said.

The third quarter belonged to Knights guard Zach Smith, who scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the period.

“He had a great third quarter. Every time he shot the ball, it didn’t look like it was going to get there – I kept yelling, ‘Short!’ and it went swish. He played an excellent game. He’s a good little shooter, and he’s quick. Sometimes he gets mad because I tell him not to pass the ball as much as he does, because he does have a nice shot,” Davis said.

The Gators kept working hard, but with Union’s 2-1-2 defense cutting off their normal dribble-and-drive moves on the baseline, they struggled to score. Co-captains Bryce Healy and Josh Guerrero paced the team with 14 points apiece and Gustin chipped in with 12, the three senior starters ending their careers by scoring all but four of Port’s 44-point total. Healy added 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals to notch the final double-double of his high school career.

“They did a good job packing their zone in and taking away our size,” Raudenbush said. “They gave us perimeter shots, but we just didn’t make them. That’s not our game. We’re not a three-point shooting team – this was probably by far the most three-point shots we took all year – but that’s what they gave us. Either force it in there, and if it’s not there, you’re just turning it over. So we took what they gave us, but unfortunately, we just weren’t making shots and they were pushing it up on defense. That’s a good recipe for a win on their part.”

Union led by 15 points after three, and when they pushed the margin to 20 midway through the fourth quarter, Raudenbush knew his team was in trouble.

“We don’t really score a lot of points; our defense keeps us in games, and that’s what wins games for us. When we get behind by double figures, it’s tough for us to come back,” he said.

Then, switching his focus to Union, he added, “They have a good squad; they’re real quick, and handle the ball well … Give credit where credit’s due. They played a great game, and that’s why they’re moving on.”

He concluded, “We still had a good season. I told the kids in the locker room, we were in most of the losses. We could have had a great season with a couple of breaks.”

Union (65)
Smith 8 0-0 19, Anthony 2 3-3 7, Mortimer 2 5-10 10, Scott 3 2-6 8, Booth 6 3-4 16, Pollock 2 0-0 5. Totals: 23 13-23 65.
Port Allegany (44)
Middleton 0 0-0 0, Gustin 6 0-3 12, Healy 6 1-4 14, Kline 1 0-0 2, Guerrero 6 1-3 14, Gleason 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 2-10 44.
Union 17 32 52 65
Port A 12 20 37 44
Three-point goals: Union 6 (Smith 3, Pollock, Booth), Port 2 (Healy, Guerrero). Total fouls: Union 10, Port 16. Fouled out: Healy.


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