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March 13, 2013

Lakeview makes history with PIAA playoff win

MERCER COUNTY AREA — SLIPPERY ROCK – If there was ever a thought Casey Greggs wasn’t the emotional center of the Lakeview Sailors boys’ basketball team, all doubt was erased Saturday evening.

Despite missing his first nine field goal attempts, Greggs nailed a pair of pivotal three-pointers to get the Sailors rolling in their thrilling come-from-behind 44-40 victory over WPIAL fourth seed Quaker Valley (20-6) in front a standing room only crowd at Slippery Rock University’s Morrow Field House.

“Casey was frustrated during our shoot around earlier today, because his shots weren’t falling like they normally do in practice,” Lakeview coach Gary Burke said. “We basically had to sit him down during a timeout in third quarter and say ‘It doesn’t matter what’s happened up to this point. Live for right now. Every possession is a new possession. Go out there and have confidence and knock them down.’ He did that. When Casey hit those three’s, you could see his energy increase and our energy increase. Our kids battled and needed a spark. We definitely got that out of several guys, but I thought Casey led the way.”

The win also happened to be first state playoff win in Lakeview boys basketball history.

“This win means a lot,” said Greggs’ best friend and ‘right-hand’ Dalton Boggs. “It’s the first state playoff win in school history. We got real excited for this game and gave it our all. We didn’t play our best game, but we found a way to win. We did a good job this week in practice on getting focused and getting ready to play this game. We were able to move on (from last week’s five-overtime loss to rival West Middlesex in District 10 finals).”

With the win, the Sailors (22-4) will face WPIAL sixth seed Greensburg Central Catholic (23-2), who beat District 6 champion Penn Cambria 66-56, in the PIAA Sweet 16 at 7:30 p.m. today at Sharon High School. Mercyhurst Prep and Beaver Falls will face off in the doubleheader’s opener at 6 p.m.

“On the radio earlier today, they asked if this group has always been a special group and it hasn’t been,” Burke said. “These kids have had to work for everything they’ve gotten up to this point … Dalton, Casey, Coty. They’ve never been the most athletic or the most talented. Yeah, Dalton and Casey could shoot it a little bit when they were in elementary school, but that’s it. For these guys to lead this program the way those three seniors have is absolutely phenomenal and it can’t be taken away from them. We don’t have a banner on the wall, yet, for this season, but no one will stop talking about this team and these four seniors with Andrew Fowler and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year. It’s a tremendous, tremendous uplifting experience for our kids.

“What a night for Lakeview. Sam Breese wins a state championship down in Hershey wrestling and our kids got the biggest win in program history, so we’re excited for them. (Breese) called and made our principal Mrs. Lilly promise to tell me ‘Good Luck (Saturday) night.’ If that doesn’t scream Lakeview, I don’t know what does. I couldn’t be more proud to wear the red and black. That’s for sure.”

Lakeview certainly wasn’t ‘sure’ they’d pick up the win midway through the third quarter with the Quakers holding the game’s largest lead at 31-24, but the ‘dynamic duo’ of Boggs and Greggs sparked an 11-2 run to close the third with three straight three-pointers. The run handed the Sailors a 35-33 lead and they never trailed again.

“We were able to hit some shots and put the game back to within reach,” Boggs said. “We just wanted to get the win and we weren’t going to give up. We knew this would be our last game if we lost, so we came out and gave it our all. This is all we have to play for now.”

The fourth quarter wasn’t a cake walk for Lakeview.

Brandon Rice scored off a Boggs assist to put Lakeview up by four with just over a minute to go, but Quaker Valley managed to stay within striking distance on Nelson Westwood’s trey with 67 seconds left to pull the Quakers to 41-40.

After an errant Lakeview pass moments later, Quaker Valley set up for a potentially game-winning shot, but Burke Moser’s shot clanged off the rim and rolled out of bounds, giving the Sailors possession with 16.1 left.

Boggs was fouled off the ensuing inbounds pass and sank the first of 2 free throws, but Coty Gander was fouled collecting the rebound and calmly sank both freebies to ice the historic victory.

“What can you say about Coty Gander,” Burke rhetorically asked. “He goes and gets his butt ripped because he didn’t step in and take a charge. Then he’s the first guy to battle his rear-end off for that rebound and give us a four-point lead that essentially iced the game for us … absolutely tremendous.”

Lakeview opened the game by running out to a 12-6 lead midway through the first quarter, but Quaker Valley used a 25-12 advantage over a 14-minute stretch.

“We came out with a lot of energy and were making some shots, but they were able to find their way back into the game,” Boggs said. “We slowed down offensively (in the second quarter and most of the third). We weren’t hitting shots and they were beating us back in transition. That’s pretty much how they did it.”

Burke attributed the Sailors’ offensive woes during the middle portions of the game (7-of-20 shooting and 7 turnovers) to their efforts on the opposite end of the floor.

“I think we were working so hard on the defensive end that down here on the offensive end we needed a break,” said Burke, who spent the better part of a half-hour receiving dozens of celebratory hugs and doing three separate interview sessions before speaking with his team. “Our movement wasn’t very good in the first half, but I told the kids to keep plugging away, because eventually the big men will finish and score. I don’t think we were real confident in that first half and I think it’ll show in our shooting percentage.”

Lakeview was able to overcome their shooting woes, though, with solid board play and an unselfishness rarely seen in team sports.

Behind a combined 24 rebounds from Boggs, Greggs and Gander, the Sailors outrebounded the Quakers 34-24, while handing out 13 assists on 15 field goals.

“We knew we had a size advantage on them with them playing four out and one in,” Boggs said. “Everybody was hitting the boards hard. We find each other and we work well as a team. That’s just our style of play. We’re already excited for game number two in the state playoffs. We’re going to practice hard. We can’t wait to see who our next opponent is.”

The Sailors got solid contributions from seniors Boggs (game-high 16 points, 8 boards and 3 assists), Gander (10 points and 8 boards) and Greggs (6 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 3 steals).

“Everybody had their moment in the sun (Saturday),” Burke said. “I can’t say enough about Zach VanDusen and his effort on (Qadir Taylor). That kid had at least 10 points in their WPIAL quarterfinal game in transition by cherry picking with passes over the top of the defense. We got great production from Austin Rice, who came in and got us through some foul trouble with Coty on the bench. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

NOTES: Both teams made 39 percent of their field goals. Lakeview made 15-of-39, while Quaker Valley went 16 for 41. … The Sailors knocked down 8-of-10 freebies and went 6-of-13 from downtown, while the Quakers went 4 for 7 and 4 for 10. … Both teams had 13 turnovers. … Moser scored 8 of his team-high 14 points in the second quarter, while Westwood had 10 markers. … VanDusen had a game-high 4 assists for Lakeview.

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