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by Patrick McKay

On Tuesday night the Pine Richland Rams hosted the Central Catholic Vikings in a pivotal Section 3 match up.  After this year’s run in football for these two schools one might think that it could not compare to AAAA WPIAL football championship but after seeing these two square off it may have been even more exciting.

In typical fashion of Section 3 basketball the game started with a furious pace as both teams incorporated the full court press from the tip.  Fresh off of a successful trip to Orlando the Vikings stormed to an early 10-2 lead.  The Rams did not back down and answered with a 16-0 run of their own to take an 18-10 lead.  Many familiar names were called as senior Ram Ben DiNucci and senior Viking John Petrishen familiar with each other from the gridiron turned in impressive performances.  Petrishen scored a career high 16 points while DiNucci tallied five three pointers for a total of 15 points on the night.

The momentum shifted back and forth throughout the night as both teams would string runs together.  At the end of the first period of play the Rams held a 21-14 lead.  Surprisingly with both teams consisting of several football players who made deep runs in the playoffs and had not been shooting the rock you would not have known it as both teams shot better than 50% from the field.  Ram freshman standout Phil Jurkovec found himself in foul trouble early and did not log any minutes in the second quarter.  This opened the door for the Vikings to take advantage of their size in the paint as senior Alex Schoppen made his presence felt and lead the Viking comeback and all scorers with a career high 26 points.  When the half time horn sounded the Vikings trailed 38-36.

The fireworks would continue in the third quarter as the teams continued to exchange momentum.  With 3:11 remaining in the third Jurkovec committed his fourth foul which was immediately followed with a technical foul causing him to foul out of the game.  The score was 48-44 Rams at the time.  The Vikings would shoot two for the foul and two for the technical at the charity stripe. They would convert 3 of 4 and have the ball.  It seemed as if the Vikings would take momentum at that point and went on to a 53-48 lead. Ram sophomore Andrew Petcash would take control however from the point and distribute the ball well. Petcash finished the evening leading all Rams on the score sheet with 21 points.  At the end of the third quarter the score was knotted at 53 but the Vikings had the momentum.

Trailing 53-55 early in the fourth DiNucci would hit a long 3 and while the score would remain close the Rams did not relinquish the lead.  Junior Ram Adam Alexander also contributed double digits tallying 14 points on the night.  Also in double digits for the Vikings was senior Sean Whalen who posted 11 points.  The Rams out rebounded the Vikings 27 to 20 but the real difference came at the free throw line where the Rams converted on 88% of their attempts going 22/25.  Not that Vikings fared much worse converting on 80% going 12/15.  While the Vikings would continue to score and press, the Rams, lead by Petcash would not miss an opportunity at the charity stripe and held the Vikings at bay.  Petcash sealed the game at line for the Rams late in the fourth and for his efforts was named the Player of the Game. The final score of this heavyweight bout was 77-74.

The Rams improve to 7-1 overall and 2-1 in Section 3.  The Vikings fall to a misleading 3-5 overall and 0-3 in Section play.  The next Quad A game of the week will be January 5 and will feature a girls’ contest between Baldwin and Upper St. Clair.

To listen to our pre-game interview with Pine-Richland head coach Jeff Ackerman, click here. To listen to our pre-game interview with Central Catholic head coach Chuck Crummie, click here.