Senior leadership: Dragons show no panic in rallying for playoff win over LeBoeuf
After a relatively comfortable pair of wins over Fort LeBoeuf during the regular season, the Warren Dragons had a fight on their hands, trailing by 1 going into the fourth quarter in the first round of the District 10 Class 4A playoffs. on Friday.
That’s when the senior leadership kicked in.
Griffin Suppa scored all seven of his points in the final eight minutes, Aidan Morrison had five more and the Dragons outscored LeBoeuf 17-5 in the fourth on their way to a 54-42 victory at Joseph A. Massa Gymnasium.
“The last two years we’ve come up short, and we really wanted to get this one as seniors,” said Suppa, while also noting a similar experience as a key member of the Dragon soccer team.
Quite simply, there was no panic.
Caleb Ei had a strong drive to start the fourth quarter to give Warren (12-9) the lead back at 38-37.
They never trailed again.
“We gutted it out at the end and made some plays,” said Warren coach Jeff Berdine. “That’s just having seniors.”
Suppa followed with a big 3 and a drive to the bucket for two more, sandwiched in between a layup from Morrison and a strong drive from sophomore Ben Berdine, who came off the bench to score 11 points, and just like that it was 49-40 and game over.
“We knew, playoff atmosphere-wise it was going to be a closer game,” Suppa said after they beat the Bison by 21 just a week earlier. “We had the home crowd with us which really helped in the end. We did underestimate them a little, but after the first couple of minutes we played together, played as a team and were able to come out with the win.”
And the defensive in the fourth was superb.
“To only give up five points in the fourth quarter, that’s how you flip the switch,” Berdine said.
It was evident very early on that this game was going to be a little different from the last two.
Morrison and Ei got into early foul trouble, giving some extended run to the Dragon bench – Berdine, Jake Funari, Mitch Grosch and Tom Bablak.
They played well, but LeBoeuf was hot from 3.
A 3 by Devin McMeans gave started a 14-4 Warren run, with Berdine also scoring five in that span, to make it 18-11, but Derrick Shields and Brandon Drayer drilled back-to-back 3’s to get LeBoeuf back within 1.
“Offensively, we were scattered the whole game,” coach Berdine said.
A 3 by Jake Kupchella and five straight points form Funari to close the half put the Dragons up 29-24 at the break.
“Ben really played a good game off the bench, and Jake gave us some huge minutes,” Berdine added.
LeBoeuf’s three top players – Shields, 6-6 senior Dylan Proctor and Joe Riley keyed a big third quarter for the Bison.
Back to back buckets by Proctor gave LeBoeuf a 35-34 lead, and he and Berdine traded buckets to end the third.
But again, there was no panic for Warren.
“We’ve been playing since fifth grade together all the way up through,” Suppa said. “We have that chemistry. We’ve been playing together all those years. We trust each other, and that’s what it came down to in the end. Trusting each to other to make the right plays and come out with the win.”
And, they did one of the toughest things to do in sports – beat a team three times in one season.
“You have to play a team for the third time, there’s a lot of familiarity,” Berdine said. “They’re not a bad team. They have a lot of kids coming back. The Proctor kid is a good player for them, as is the Riley kid.”
In addition to his team-high 13 points, Kupchella, who was aggressive all night offensively, also had five assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Morrison and McMeans had three assists each and Morrison two steals.
Next up for the Dragons is a date with Grove City on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.
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FORT LEBOEUF (42)
Shields 3-0-3-8, Riley 3-3-5-11, Drayer 2-0-0-5, Turi 0-0-0-0, Black 3-4-7-10, Gentile 0-0-0-0, Totals 15-7-17-42
Morrison 1-4-6-6, Kupchella 5-1-1-13, McMeans 1-0-0-3, Ei 4-0-0-9, Suppa 3-0-0-7, Berdine 5-0-0-11, Grosch 0-0-0-0, Funari 1-3-3-5, Bablak 0-0-0-0, Totals 20-8-10-54
Fort LeBoeuf 11 13 13 5 – 42
Warren 9 20 7 18 – 54
Three-point FGs: Fort LeBoeuf (5) – Shields 2, Riley 2, Drayer; Warren (6) – Kupchella 2, McMeans, Berdine, Ei, Suppa