The Almond-Bancroft boys basketball team was reminded it isn’t how you start games, but rather how you finish them that counts most.
The third-seeded Eagles withstood a furious rally by No. 6 seeded Pittsville, despite fast starts to begin each half, as they held on for a 35-34 victory Tuesday night in a WIAA Division 5 regional quarterfinal.
A-B advances to face second-seeded Columbus Catholic in a regional semifinal Friday at 7 p.m.
The Eagles held a a seven-point lead with just under two minutes left to play and seemed to be poised to advance, but the Panthers had different plans.
Pittsville, led by Nathan Dupee and Brad Wesely,cut the deficit to one point with less than 30 seconds to play.
The Panthers continued to apply pressure and forced Almond-Bancroft into a turnover to get the ball back with 15 seconds left in regulation.
Pittsville was able to get the ball down the court, and after a foul to stop the clock with just two seconds left, the Panthers had time for just one more shot, which was a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim as the horn sounded to preserve the victory for A-B.
“Pittsville is such a big and physical team from a very tough conference,” A-B coach Curt Lamb said. “They battled hard when they were down, and we had to fight as long and hard as we could for the win.”
The final moments of the game wasn’t the first time Almond-Bancroft had to hold off a Pittsville rally.
A-B held a 10-2 lead at the end of the first quarter, and pushed the lead to nearly 15 points in the middle of the second quarter, but the Panthers battled back.
Pittsville outscored the Eagles 16-9 in the second quarter, paced by Wesely with eight points in the frame to trail 19-18 at the intermission.
“Slow starts to both halves did us in,” Pittsville coach Dan Hoffa said. “It is no fault of the kids, they battled all game and gave a great effort and comeback and gave us a chance to win at the horn, but as our story seemed to be all season, the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
Almond’s fast start to the second half was spurred by the inside play of Ethan Yonke and slashing speed of Evan Pagel. The duo led the Eagles in scoring, as Pagel finished with 13 points, with Yonke adding 10.
Leading Scorers: P, Brad Wesely 14, Austin John 8, Aron Masanz 6, Nathan Dupee 4, Matthew Carlson 2; A-B, Evan Pagel 13, Ethan Yonke 10, Austin Bunders 8, Garett Yonke 2, Reegan Anderson 2. FT: P, 5-9; A-B 3/10. 3-Pointers: P, 3 (Masanz 2, Dupee), A-B, 1 (Pagel.)
Records: Almond-Bancroft 19-4, Pittsville 6-16.