Just when things looked the bleakest for the Bishop Carroll boys’ basketball team on Tuesday night, the Huskies went on a 22-0 run keyed by Nik Suckinos from 3-point range and held on for a 69-65 victory over Monessen in second round PIAA Tournament action at Gateway High School.
“I was trying to be a spark off the bench,” said the junior forward, who finished with 14 points. “It was a big game and when I went in, I really focused on hitting my shots. Shots were falling. It was a good night.”
Bishop Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said he has been waiting for Suckinos to step up.
“I’ve been harping on Nik for the playoffs to not just hit them in practice, but start making them in a game and today he stepped up,” the Huskies coach said. “They were big shots for us.”
Junior Brandon Martinazzi added a game-high 28 points for Bishop Carroll (27-0), which will play Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, a 58-43 winner over Ridgway on Tuesday, on Friday at a site and time to be determined.
Marcus Lee, who finished with nine points and 14 rebounds picked up his third and fourth fouls in the third quarter and with the Huskies trailing 49-43 at the 2:31 mark of the third quarter, Aliquo received a technical foul.
“That got us going,” Suckinos said. “It kind of turned the game around. It was pretty remarkable to make that big of a run.”
Justice Rice hit both free throws to put the Greyhounds ahead 51-43. But after a Rice basket at 1:13, Monessen went ice cold shooting and did not score again until the 3:15 mark of the fourth. Meanwhile the Huskies picked up their game and fueled by three Suckinos treys, Bishop Carroll went ahead 65-53.
The Greyhounds pulled to within four as time wound down, but could get no closer.
“The third quarter into the fourth killed us,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. “We stopped pushing the ball and started shooting 3’s. When you have the lead, you don’t have to play that fast.”
Added Aliquo: “They started taking some shots that they were making in the first half and weren’t making in the second half and we started getting the rebounds and getting out and now they were chasing the basketball instead of us chasing it.”
There were three ties and four lead changes in the first quarter with Monessen taking a 20-16 lead, keyed by eight points from Javon Brown, who finished with a team-high 19.
The Greyhounds led by as many as nine points in the second, but the Huskies pulled to within 43-37 at the half. Monessen hit six of seven of its 3-pointers in the first half.
“My guys just don’t give up,” Aliquo said.
Monessen kept increasing its lead in the third, going up to 10 points before the technical which started the Huskies big run.
“Anytime you can make a run, it’s huge, especially when they had the lead and they had a lot of momentum in the first half,” Suckinos said.
Scott Lucas and Nick Burk each chipped in six points for the Huskies. Justice Rawlins and Lavelle Rush added 12 points each for the Greyhounds, who also got 10 points from Justice Rice.
Bishop Carroll, the third ranked team in the state, has not had to play from behind many times this season.
“Usually we have a fair lead going, but that was good because it’s getting tougher now and we needed a game like that to test us,” Suckinos said. “Experience and being here last year really played a huge role in helping us.”
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/CoryIsenbergTD.