Berlin Brothersvalley had a hot start and an uptempo finish in the PIAA Class A boys’ basketball playoffs on Friday night at Pitt-Johnstown.
But Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic rode 6-foot-9 senior center Dominic Robb inside, and used an 11-0 spurt to open the third quarter to pull away in a 56-44 victory at the Sports Center.
“I’m proud of our kids the way they made a run and made it interesting,” said Berlin coach Tanner Prosser, whose District 5-A champion Mountaineers finished 23-3. “They just had a little too much for us.
“We got into our press and were able to create some turnovers and knock down some big shots. We cut it to four and they made six straight free throws. It’s tough when you dig that deep of a hole against a team like that.”
The tallest player on the floor, Robb finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. Ryan Kirby (15 points), Timon Gribbin (10) and John Savulchack (10) scored in double digits for North Catholic.
“We gave (Robb) a few things too easy early and then we did a good job on him as far as his offense, but he was a force defensively,” Prosser said. “We hadn’t seen anything like that all year.”
Berlin trailed 42-29 entering the fourth quarter, but the Mountaineers closed within four points, 48-44, after two free throws by Zac Cooney with 2:13 left.
North Catholic closed the game on an 8-0 run. The District 7 third-place Trojans (16-10) play Tuesday against the Ridgway-Eisenhower winner.
“I told these guys it’s got to be one of the better seasons in Berlin history,” Prosser said. “They’re 23-3 and district champions. We hadn’t lost a basketball game since Jan. 9. That’s two months without losing a basketball game, and we didn’t have the easy part of our schedule in the second half.”
Berlin led 5-0, 7-2 and 10-4 midway through the first quarter as Jake Snyder had seven points. But North Catholic went to Robb inside, and the center netted 10 first-quarter points, including baskets that tied the score at 10-, 12- and 14-all.
“We got some things in transition,” Prosser said of the early success. “We were able to drive and kick. We got some open looks and knocked them down. We got the start we wanted. We just weren’t able to sustain it.”
North Catholic took its first lead, 23-22, on a Robb basket set up by PJ Fulmore’s steal.
Gribbin’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 26-22, and Christian Goetz made a trey to set a 29-24 score that stood at halftime.
Berlin’s Snyder had three 3-pointers and 15 first-half points to keep the Mountaineers in range. But North Catholic’s Kirby shadowed Snyder throughout the second half, and the Mountaineers sharpshooter was held without a point over the final two quarters.
“Their guards did a nice job of being disciplined and staying out on our shooters and kind of leaving (Robb) to block things underneath,” Prosser said. “That’s the recipe to beat us.”
Snyder had a game-high 15 points, and Nick Stockwell had 14 points.
“Jake is a heck of a player and he really got us out to a good start and gave us a chance early,” Prosser said.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.