Eagles show toughness as they hold off Rocky Grove in quarterfinals, clinch first state playoff berth since 1992
OIL CITY, Pa. — Youngsville boys basketball coach Jesse DeLoof has often stressed how interchangeable his players are.
The Eagles proved him right during their 45-39 District 10 Class 2A quarterfinal win over Rocky Grove at Oil City High School Friday. The Eagles held off the Orioles despite not having a single player with double digit points and leading scorer Gage Hendrickson on the bench with foul trouble.
“Our guys just made plays,” DeLoof said. “They just go out and play. They all have that feel for the game.”
Hendrickson, who rarely finds himself in foul trouble, picked up his fourth personal foul with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter and the Eagles (19-5) up 26-21.
“I think that’s the first time all season he’s had to sit because of foul trouble,” DeLoof said.
The Orioles (14-9) took advantage of Hendrickson’s absence to cut it to a one point game, 28-27, going into the fourth quarter.
Rocky Grove threw a number of different defensive looks at Youngsville and DeLoof was forced to adjust throughout the contest.
“We expected them to play almost exclusively 2-3 zone,” he said. “But they played man early. They went to a triangle and two late and we had to adjust again.”
The fourth quarter adjustment came in the form of junior guards Joe Mack and Austin Peterson driving to the rim. The pair opened the frame with back-to-back layups to give the Eagles a 32-27 lead just a minute in. After Rocky Grove’s Gabe Francic knocked down a pair of free throws, Mack was at it again. On consecutive possessions, he took the ball aggressively to the basket. He was fouled both times. Mack went 1-2 from the line on the first, and was unable to complete the 3-point play on the second. Still, the Eagles had a 35-29 advantage with 4:37 to play.
“I just had a burst of confidence,” Mack said. “It was like I flipped a switch.”
“He gets a different mindset in those moments,” DeLoof added. “He’s got a bulldog mentality.”
With just over four minutes to play, Mack went 1-2 from the line to make it 36-31. Francic responded with a pair of jumpers to cut the deficit to just one, 36-35, with 2:16 to go.
“We were just having bad turnovers,” DeLoof said. “(Francic) made shots down the stretch. We knew those (jumpers) were the shots they were going to make.”
Ethan Kesterholt knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three, but Francic again responded with a jump shot to trim the Eagles lead to 38-37 with 1:35 left. Hendrickson went 1-2 from the line to make it a two point game with 1:15 to go.
“We’re two balanced teams,” Mack said. “It comes down to man vs. man. We knew they were going to shoot, but we had good help defensively.”
After a stop defensively, Peterson took the ball inside, was fouled and completed the 3-point play to put Youngsville up 42-37 with just under a minute to go. Zac Clayton answered with a bucket on the other end, but with 30 seconds left, Peterson was fouled. He missed the first, but drained the second to make it a two possession game.
“There were a little nerves,” Peterson said of his late free throws. “I was thinking, ‘I better make this.'”
Rocky Grove decided to challenge Hendrickson inside defensively on the next possession, but the senior forward came up with a big block and a perfect outlet pass to Kesterholt who was wide open under the basket and calmly laid the ball in with nine seconds to go.
“I trust all those guys in crunch time,” DeLoof said.
The Orioles got one more shot off, but it went wide and the Eagles celebrated both advancing to the D-10 semis, and clinching a spot in the PIAA State Playoffs for the first time since 1992.
“That moment (the final bucket) was the icing on the cake,” Peterson said.
The extra week off for Rocky Grove, who received a first round bye due to opt-outs, seemed to pay off early. The Orioles jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game.
“We figured they’d either shoot lights out early, or be ice cold,” DeLoof said. “They looked good early. It took us a possession or two to adjust, but we locked them up defensively to get back in it.”
The Eagles started to get into a rhythm offensively late in the frame as Hendrickson hit a three and Brady Olewine knocked down a jumper to cut the Orioles’ lead to 9-7 going to the second.
“They were a little quicker than we expected,” Peterson said. “But we had an overall good game plan and knew what was going to happen.”
Hendrickson’s layup tied it at 9-9 early in the second, and Timber Bower’s 3-pointer with 5:42 to play in the half gave Youngsville it’s first lead of the game, 12-9. Eli Dickson and Francic hit consecutive shots to put the Orioles back on top, 13-12, but Hendrickson responded with a 3-point play to give the Eagles a 15-13 advantage.
Youngsville wouldn’t trail again.
Olewine hit a jumper and Bower drained another three to put Youngsville ahead 20-13 at the half.
Francic had a game-high 16 points for the Orioles. Dickson and Isaac Clayton added eight apiece.
Hendrickson and Olewine each had nine points for the Eagles. Peterson added eight, Kesterholt seven and Mack and Bower six each.
“We won a playoff game without a scorer in double digits,” Youngsville assistant coach Dave Sherman said. “If that doesn’t reflect a team effort, I don’t know what does.”
The win assures the Eagles will play at least three more games, two more D-10 plus at least one in the state playoffs.
“You can’t wipe the smile off my face right now because I get to coach these kids at least three more game,” DeLoof said. “I don’t want this to end.”
Youngsville will meet Farrell, an 86-31 winners over Maplewood in the quarterfinals, in Tuesday’s semifinal game. The time and location will be announced at a later date. The Steelers are ranked seventh in the Class 2A state poll.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” Mack said. “We just need to keep working on getting better.”
ROCKY GROVE (39)
Francic 6-3-4-16, Z. Clayton 2-0-0-4, Dickson 3-2-2-8, I. Clayton 3-1-2-8, Toscano 1-1-2-3, Henderson 0-0-0-0, Total 15-7-10-39
Hendrickson 3-2-3-9, Mack 2-2-5-6, Kesterholt 2-3-4-7, Olewine 4-0-0-9, Bower 2-0-0-6, Peterson 3-2-3-8, Dell 0-0-0-0, Total 16-7-15-45
Rocky Grove 9 4 14 12 – 39
Youngsville 7 13 8 17 – 45
3-point FGs: Rocky Grove (2)-Francic, I. Clayton. Youngsville (4)-Bower 2, Hendrickson, Olewine.