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North boys pull away from pesky Hornets

Surviving the Sting

CRANBERRY TWP — In Friday’s opening round of the state basketball playoffs, North Catholic was on top of its game, driving and kicking, hitting treys in flurries that would overwhelm most opponents before reaching the respite provided by halftime.

But with its season on the line, Hickory proved stubborn and the Hornets hung around before finally succumbing in an 89-65 Class 4A decision at North’s gym.

North drained 13 treys, six of them coming in the first half. Time and time again, their lead would swell to double digits, only to have Hickory rally.

North Catholic's Max Hurray (21) drives to the hoop against Hickory's Ben Swanson, right, during Friday night's PIAA Class 4A first-round playoff in Cranberry Township. Hurray scored a game-high 25 points and North prevailed, 89-65. Seb Foltz/Special to the Eagle

Trailing 44-38 as the third quarter began, the Hornets made their first two attempts from the floor and trailed just 44-42. At that point, Hickory had made 19 of its 24 field goal attempts in the game, including 14 of 15 from inside the arc.

“We weren’t expecting them to shoot the ball as well as they did,” said North senior guard Matt Ellery. “But we knew we just had to stick to the game plan, keep playing within our system and we were able to pull away late.”

Beginning with Ellery’s 3-pointer with 6:52 left in the third period, North dropped a 26-10 run to finally put the Hornets in a hole from which they could not emerge.

Senior guard Tyson Djakovich led Hickory’s effort with 17 points.

“They have some really good spot shooters,” said North coach Jim Rocco of the Hornets. “Hickory is a brand name in basketball in Western PA. There’s a lot of tradition there, but I think our press got to them, we caused some turnovers and were able to impose our will late in the game.”

Ellery hit two more treys in the third period as North built a 70-52 lead with eight minutes to play. He hit six of them in the game and was one of three Trojans to reach 20 points. Ellery scored that many while Max Hurray (25) and Andrew Maddalon (22) also had very strong games.

Hurray reached 1,000 career points with a basket in the second half. He’s been a big part of the team averaging 76 points per game over the last four contests.

“That balance is important because we’re now running into teams that can do the same things we do,” said Rocco. “Like us, these teams have kids who can produce in big moments.”

Both teams recently placed runner-up in district play, Hickory in District 10 and North Catholic in the WPIAL.

North (20-7) closed out its home schedule in fashion, with a win that sends it to Tuesday’s second round against the winner of Saturday’s game between Valley View and Shamokin Area.

“I’m a senior, so this was a really special night for me,” said Ellery.

HICKORY 65

Rylan Dye 3 2-4 8, Ryan Robich 3 1-1 7, Devin Daniels 6 1-1 13, Ben Swanson 4 0-0 9, Logan Lyons 0 1-2 1, Dom Uberti 1 0-0 3, Landon Bean 2 1-1 5, Tyson Djakovich 7 0-0 17, Alex Flickinger 1 0-1 2, Marco Miller 0 0-0 0, Tanner Turosky 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 6-10 65.

NORTH CATHOLIC 89

Andrew Maddalon 8 5-7 22, Matt Ellery 7 0-0 20, Max Hurray 10 1-3 25, Max Rottmann 3 4-6 10, Jason Siket 1 0-0 2, Eli Stofko 1 0-0 3, Donnie Schubert 1 0-0 2, Jason Fredericks 1 0-0 2, Jude Rottmann 1 0-0 3, Owen Maddalon 0 0-0 0, Nick Larson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 33 10-16 89.

Hickory 18 20 14 13 — 65

North Catholic 23 21 26 19 — 89

3-point goals: Hickory 5 (Djakovich 3, Uberti, Swanson); North Catholic 13 (Ellery 6, Hurray 4, A.Maddalon, Stofko, J.Rottmann).

Tuesday: North Catholic vs. Valley View/Shamokin Area winner, PIAA second round, TBD

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