MERCER COUNTY AREA —
SLIPPERY ROCK – The record will show Lakeview lost the District 10 Class AA championship game, but that’s an inaccurate assessment.
It was more a case of West Middlesex’s will to win.
“We’ve been here before, and we have not quit in us,” senior standout Matt Dogan said. “Coach Mild’s an unbelievable motivator. He would sell his soul for our team, and we have to go out there and reflect that we would do the same for him.”
Dogan delivered a game-high 36 points Friday night, as West Middlesex won its 2nd straight D-1o title via a 71-65 victory that required 5 overtimes.
“It got to a certain point where I asked, ‘What overtime are we in?’” admitted Sailors’ skipper Gary Burke.
In 52 minutes, Dogan delivered a 36-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist line, while Trey Staunch stuck the Sarilors for a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double, during his 52-minute performance. At one point, the stout Staunch collapsed, owing to dehydration and leg cramps.
“You know what, Lakeview had the will too, but we just had some balls bounce our way,” Middlesex mentor Chad Mild admitted. “I would never say that (the Sailors) didn’t have the will, too – cause it could’ve gone either way for a long time – foul trouble hurt them in the latter overtimes.
“But our kids never quit playing,” Mild continued. “When we were down nine points (39-30 with 2:23 remaining to intermission), we told them, ‘We’ve gotta believe in each other, we’ve been here,’ and we dug deep down inside. Matt said it’s a special group, and they made me who I am.”
It was the Sailors’ 3rd setback to West Middlesex after Lakeview lost the regular-season home-and-home Region 2-AA affairs. But this had a different feel from the outset.
Lakeview led 12-10 at the quarter, 26-23 at intermission, and 39-34 entering the 4th frame. But Dogan drained both ends of a 1-and-1 bonus free-throw opportunity with 3:26 remaining in regulation that knotted the count at 46.
The teams were tied at 48, 53, 59 and 61 at the conclusion of each of the first four 4-minute extra sessions.
Lakeview’s Dalton Boggs also played all 52 minutes, and posted a 25-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist line.
“That’s the kind of heart and desire all our kids have,” Burke, not boastfully,praised. “Dalton didn’t want to lose — nobody on that floor (Friday) night thought we were gonna lose when we came into this game, and that was proved by how we play.
“Dalton just has a lot of heart and soul, and shows what every Lakeview Sailor baskeball player has,” Burke added.
In the 5th and final OT period, Dogan dished to Staunch twicein the opening 66 seconds of the session, and the Big Reds never trailed. And Staunch, who shot 8 for 10 from the free-throw line, added a pair of freebies, also.
West Middlesex (22-3) won last season’s single-A crown, and Mild admitted,
“We were the two-time region champ, district champs … we already had our hardware, so we have our eyes set on the state championship. I think the pressure had to be on (the Sailors) a little bit, but they came to play (Friday) night. Hats off to Lakeview; great game plan.
“But I’m proud of my kids. I love every one of them – A to Z,” Mild mused. “I love our community, this is all about them, not about me. Everything we’ve gotten, the kids have done; I just try to stay out of the way.”
“We never doubt ourselves, I don’t care if we’re down 29,” the determined Dogan deadpanned. “We were gonna come back and win that basketball game, because we had no quit. Everyone played with as much heart as they have.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant,” Dogan emphasized, “but this is a small goal for us, this is a stepping stone on the way to bigger things. We want to win a state championship. But to come out and get this win is just phenomenal!
“I didn’t think it could get better after last year – a game-winner in overtime to beat Kennedy,” Dogan continued. “But this year we went five OT’s in another rivalry game, so it might be better this year.”
Sailors seniors Casey Greggs (16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Cody Gander (10 points, 10 rebounds) and junior frontliner Brandon Rice (6 points, 3 rebounds) each took turns to the bench after incurring their 5th personal foul. But Burke was unbending in his praise for Lakeview (21-4).
“I don’t know how much more proud I can be. … What more can you ask out of a group of kids?” he rhetorically asked. “To play the third- or fifth-ranked team in the state or whatever they are to five overtimes and lose by two possessions, it just goes to show what kind of heart and soul our kids have, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“We just didn’t take care of the basketball in key opportunites,” Burke admitted. “We had people in position to make plays, but for one reason or another, we didn’t make a play. A couple missed assignments on the defensive end, which you can’t do against (the Big Reds). But it took them five overtimes to score 71 points on us.
“A couple missed assignment s here and there and a little bit of foul trouble … you’ve gotta play a darned near perfect game to beat (West Middlesex), and we almost did,” Burke said.
“Our kids never buckled and showed a lot of poise,” Mild said regarding his Big Reds.
Lakeview will open the PIAA playoffs at 6 p.m. Saturday at Slippery Rock University against Quaker Valley.
DISTRICT 10 CLASS AA
L 12 14 13 7 2 5 6 2 4 65
W 10 13 11 12 2 5 6 2 10 71
LAKEVIEW — VanDusen 1-0-1-2, B. Rice 3-0-0-6, Gander 4-2-2-10, Greggs 6-2-3-16, Boggs 10-3-5-25, Fowler 0-0-0-0, Doddo 0-0-0-0, Bigley 0-0-0-0, A. Rice 2-0-0-6. 3-pt. goals: Greggs 2, Boggs 2, A. Rice 2. Totals: 26-7-11-65.
WEST MIDDLESEX — Jancso 4-4-5-12, M. Dogan 10-16-18-36, Staunch 4-8-10-16, Palmer 2-1-2-7, Klaric 0-0-2-0, C. Porterfield 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Palmer 2. Totals: 20-29-37-71.