Bethel Park Defends Into The Second Round
by: Steve Brodzinski – Pittsburgh Basketball Report
Sitting there at half-time of the Bethel Park vs. Fox Chapel playoff game at North Hills High School on Saturday, I muttered to myself, “This is an ugly one.” And “ugly” is just how Bethel Park wanted it to be, as they went up against a Fox Chapel team that boasted two 1,000 point scorers, including Class AAAA’s third leading scorer Matt D’Amico. Bethel Park’s calling card has been tough, physical play all season. This style earned them the #2 spot in section 4 of Class Quad A, and from the opening tip of this round 1 playoff match-up, Bethel Park imposed it’s physical style and trapping defense to throw the Foxes out of sync.
Josh Krafczynski knocked down an early three for Bethel Park, and this would be a sign of things to come for the 6’4” senior. Another sign of things to come was Fox Chapel’s big three of senior Brian Papich, Matt D’Amico, and junior Billy Urso being bothered by the BP defense from the start, as the referees were definitely “letting them play” which would favor the more physical Blackhawks. Bethel Park was also implementing a tough man-to-man defense, with a trapping element, that took the ball out of the Fox Chapel’s big three’s hands, but often left Fox Chapel’s Connor Duquette and David Brown wide open only feet from the basket. However, Brown and Duquette refused to take the ball to the basket, or even look at the basket on most possessions.
While the Foxes’ big three only combined for 8 points in the first half, Krafczynski knocked down two more threes in the second quarter, and Bethel Park led 25-20 at the half. While Krafczynski was tremendous from long range, the real story was how junior guards Anthony Bomar and Joey Mascaro handled the Fox Chapel pressure all night. While Bomar handled the ball to start the offense, it was Mascaro who essentially created something out of nothing all night for Bethel. When the offensive sets broke down, Mascaro regrouped from the top of the key, looked to penetrate, and set-up guys like Krafczynski’s who camped outside of the three point line for most of the night.
In the second half, Fox Chapel got going a little bit offensively behind Brian Papich who ended up scoring 16 points for the Foxes. Sophomore Jake Dixon scored three times for Bethel Park to start the half, and Krafczynski hit yet another three to give Bethel a 37-30 lead heading into the final quarter. Fox Chapel rallied in the fourth to overcome the seven point deficit and eventually take a 45-42 lead with about 1:42 remaining. Enter sophomore Levi Metheny, son of Bethel Park football coach Jeff Metheny, who would make two huge plays for the Hawks. Metheny scored a layup after getting an offensive rebound to make the score 45-44, and then on the ensuing possession stripped Matt D’Amico of the ball and came up with the steal.
Bethel Park did not call a timeout, and a quick pass to Krafczynski led to his 6th three point basket of the game, giving BP a 47-45 lead with about 30 seconds remaining. D’Amico forced a tough shot that did not connect, and after a couple of free throws, Bethel Park walked away with the 49-45 win. Bethel’s Joey Mascaro finished with only 11 points, but his play-making and defense were a huge key to Hawk’s victory. Krafczynski finished with 20 points after going 6-14 from three. Fox Chapel’s seniors Matt D’Amico (11) and Brian Papich (16) combined for only 27 points after averaging nearly 40ppg together on the season. Junior guard Billy Urso who normally scores double figures, was also held to only 4 points. A combination of the Foxes’ poor shooting night, Bethel’s trapping defense, and the refs allowing a very physical style of play, led to Fox Chapel scoring 19.5 less points than their season average.
For #9 seed Bethel, beating #8 seed Fox Chapel rewards them with the opportunity to play #1 seed New Castle in the second round. This match-up does not favor Bethel Park’s style of play as well. New Castle has at least 5 scoring options on the floor at all times, so the trapping game plan will not work, and when it comes to physicality, New Castle can match up with anyone in that category. It will interesting to see Bethel’s game plan on Feb. 22nd as they take on the defending WPIAL Champions.