Uniontown knocks North Catholic off with buzzer-beater
NORTH CHARLEROI, Washington County — North Catholic was on such a roll, it seemed only something dramatic would knock the Trojans out of the running for a state championship.
Uniontown’s final shot in Friday’s Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinal certainly qualifies.
Moments after Andrew Maddalon’s two free throws put North up 54-52 with just 2.5 seconds left in the game, Uniontown senior Bakari Wallace drove a stake through the hearts of the Trojans and their fans, draining a 3-pointer from three steps behind the arc and the Red Raider faithful flooded the court at Charleroi High School to celebrate a 55-54 victory.
“Uniontown has some really good players,” said North coach Jim Rocco. “We just made a mistake at the end and one of their kids got loose.”
The Red Raiders (23-5) had inbounded the ball to Calvin Winfrey short of midcourt. He side-stepped a North defender before passing the ball to Wallace, who had just enough time to lean forward to retrieve the ball, take a step back and square up for his game-winning shot.
“For Bakari, a senior, to make that, it was really special,” said Uniontown coach Rob Kezmarsky. “It goes in and I thought: ‘We’re playing Monday for the right to go to the state championship!”
In late February, North defeated Uniontown 73-58 in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Kezmarsky said his team did not rebound the ball well that night. Friday was a different story as the Red Raiders grabbed 39 boards to just 21 for the Trojans. Fifteen of Uniontown’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
The struggles on the glass, combined with a 3-of-18 shooting performance from the field in the first 13 minutes of the second half, had the Trojans (21-8) trailing on the scoreboard and searching for answers.
Junior guard Max Hurray stepped to the fore, scoring eight straight points to tie the game at 52 with 1:47 left.
“We didn’t play all that well tonight, but our kids are resilient,” said Rocco. “They know the game, what to do in certain situations and they play for each other.”
Uniontown’s Notorious Grooms missed a shot that would have given his team the lead, North rebounded and Maddalon’s trip to the line followed.
Uniontown trailed 32-28 at halftime, but opened the third quarter with eight straight points, two buckets each from Wallace and Jamire Braxton. The latter led the Red Raiders with 23 points on the night, including 11 in the second period.
“He left our last game (a second-round win over Littlestown) after the first half with an illness,” Kezmarsky said of Braxton. “He stepped up. Everyone contributed.”
Hurray scored 29 points to lead all scorers. He was one of just four Trojans to end the night with points. Maddalon added 15.
The Trojans were in disbelief in the moments following Wallace’s buzzer-beater. For them, the run ended three wins short of a goal that seemed entirely possible with the momentum they had gained by winning 17 of their previous 19 games.
“It was a phenomenal season,” Rocco said. “These kids are talented, but they also care about each other.”
Uniontown will face WPIAL champion Lincoln Park, a 69-66 winner over Laurel Highlands, in a semifinal Monday.
NORTH CATHOLIC 54
Max Hurray 10 3-4 29, Nick Larson 0 2-3 2, Matt Ellery 2 2-3 8, Andrew Maddalon 4 5-8 15, Jason Siket 0 0-0 0, Max Rottmann 0 0-0 0, Owen Maddalon 0 0-0 0, Eli Stofko 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 12-18 54.
Notorious Grooms 4 0-0 10, Calvin Winfrey 2 1-3 5, Kadrian McLee 2 0-0 4, Bakari Wallace 3 0-0 7, Levi Garner 3 0-0 6, Jamire Braxton 10 3-6 23, Tanner Uphold 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 4-9 55.
North Catholic 10 22 5 17 — 54
Uniontown 10 18 12 15 — 55
3-point goals: North Catholic 10 (Hurray 6, Ellery 2, A.Maddalon 2); Uniontown 3 (Grooms 2, Wallace).