BERWICK – Some brief but good-natured mockery emitted from the Scranton locker room after Saturday afternoon's game with second-seeded Hazleton Area.
The Knights were poking some holes in their low seeding … just like Karlon Quiller poked holes in the Cougars' defense.
Quiller scored a game-high 29 points – some in acrobatic fashion – as sixth-seeded Scranton stopped second-seeded Hazleton Area 54-46 in the District 2-4 Class 4A semifinals at the Berwick Middle School.
Scranton (19-5) will play District 4's Williamsport (20-2) on Wednesday for the championship and a berth in the state playoffs. Scranton will also win the D2-4A championship with a victory. A loss would pit the Knights against Wyoming Valley West on Saturday for the D2 crown, but without a state berth attached to the game.
You have to be seeded somewhere and eventually you have to play everyone to win these things, Scranton coach Tony Battaglia said. But to be the last seed in Quad-A basketball, our guys didn't take it very well.
Hazleton Area ended its season at 17-6 after seeing a wobbly four-point lead early in the fourth quarter dissolve at the 6:38 mark.
We're up four with about six and a half minutes left, Hazleton Area coach Mike Joseph said. That sequence there where we turn it over and Quiller I think hit a three and then he hit a drive. That was a big momentum (boost) for them because I thought we had the game going our way.
Andrew Moran actually hit the three-pointer, but it was Quiller with the drive. An all-state selection in football, the 6-foot senior contorted himself in midair like a circus sideshow performer to give Scranton the lead for good, 39-38.
A lot of credit to my teammates for getting me the ball and getting me open, Quiller said. Especially on screens. Very, very solid screens. We knew Hazleton was going to run with us. And (Sal) Biasi is a great player. We were trying to control him.
As expected, Biasi was the main force behind the Cougars jumping to a 15-4 lead and maintaining it through the first basket of the third quarter. However, Scranton cut off his opportunities to the rim in the fourth, electing to send him to the foul line rather than risking a penetration basket. The strategy prevented the Cougars from feeding off the energy from their fans in the large crowd.
The Knights also played Biasi differently than opponents in the regular season. While opponents usually used a quick, similarly-sized player to guard the Wyoming Valley Conference scoring champ, Scranton had 6-foot-3 Moran battle 5-11 Biasi.
Andrew Moran, and you can quote me on this, is the best defensive player the last 10 years in the area, Battaglia said. He is absolutely phenomenal. He can play their point guard, he can play their big man, he can play any person the other team throws at us.
Biasi had a team-high 25 points, and Moran made him work for most of them. Moreover, Biasi never got into a groove in a the way that would let him and his teammates wilt the opposition in WVC play. His only field goal of the fourth quarter came with 1:45 remaining.
Scranton 54, Hazleton Area 46
SCRANTON (54): Corey White 1 1-3 4, Karlon Quiller 11 3-4 29, Jake McCarthy 2 3-4 7, Andrew Moran 3 1-4 8, Matt Redetzky 2 0-0 4, Phil Ash 0 0-0 0, Eric McCabe 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 8-15 54.
HAZLETON AREA (46): Sal Biasi 8 6-8 25, Brett Barron 2 0-0 5, Will Hierro 1 0-0 3, Kurtis Wright 2 1-1 5, Kyle Karmonick 2 0-1 4, Chris Woodring 0 0-0 0, Able Felix 2 0-0 4, Hunter Samec 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 7-10 46.