ROYERSFORD >> There would be no blowout this time. But the final result, unfortunately for the Faith Christian boys basketball, stayed the same.
Sixteen days after their 32-point defeat at the hands of Girard College in the District 1-A final, the Lions did not back down in a rematch with a spot in the state championship game on the line.
“We gave them a run for their money,” Faith junior Sawyer Smith said.
Faith Christian built an eight-point advantage in the third quarter and led by four in the final quarter. But empty possessions by the Lions gave Girard an opening and a 12-0 run by the Cavaliers enabled them to claim a 67-58 win in the PIAA Class A semifinals Monday night at Spring-Ford High School.
“In the first game they didn’t really experience Faith basketball so tonight we had to give it to them,” Faith junior Charles Ervin said. “Because they were a faster team and we pressed and they kind of drove through and all that, so that’s why we sat back in 2-3 (zone) and they couldn’t really handle it until they started to turn up in the fourth quarter.”
Daiquan Copeland scored a game-high 22 points while Mikeal Jones had 17 points — 14 in the second half — as Girard College outscored Faith 26-13 after trailing 45-41 through three quarters to reach the state title game for the first time since it won the PIAA A crown in 2009. Brandon Smith added 10 points.
The Cavaliers face District 10 champ Kennedy Catholic — which beat District 7 champ Monessen 73-59 Monday at Slippery Rock University Monday — for the state title at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“They’re very good scorers and we that if we allowed both of them (Copeland and Jones) to get double digits we were probably going to be in for a long night,” Faith Christian coach Tony DaCosta said. “And I think that’s probably what happened. It happened late in the game not early in the game. But be as it may, things happen, listen you can’t take anything away from them, they deserve a lot of credit and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the championship.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 21, 2017
Zeke Snowden had 14 points to pace Faith Christian, which ends its season at 27-5 and a win short of the program’s first-ever state final appearance. Sawyer Smith came off the bench to scored 13 points — seven in the second quarter — while Ervin and Miki Vitek both had nine points.
“I told them I loved them because as a former player that they put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this game, lot of investment by players that play any high school sport,” DaCosta said. “If you really care, it hurts. And it should hurt. But once again, life goes on and you learn from experiences and you live to play another day.”
Faith was walloped 72-40 in the district final March 4 by the Cavaliers, but Monday the Lions led 31-30 at halftime and was up 45-37 in the third before Girard scored the quarter’s last four points.
“I didn’t think the first time we competed very well,” Faith coach Tony DaCosta said. “And I wanted to make sure that this time around we did compete, we did all the things we’re capable of doing, that we do in practice every day. And you saw a team for the most part that did that and went out and played that way.”
Snowden picked up his fourth foul with 19.4 seconds left in the third quarter but returned with 4:10 in the fourth after four straight points from Kasim Toliver pulled Girard College even 51-51.
Faith, however, could not regain the lead, turning the ball over on back-to-back possessions. Copeland put the Cavs up 53-51 while a Jones dunk made it a four-point edge.
Free throws from Jones and Smith pushed the Girard lead to 59-51 before Anthony Sessa’s 3-pointer stopped the 12-point GC burst and cut the margin to 59-54. But the Cavaliers hit their free throws down the stretch — going 8-of-12 from the line in the final 1:50 as both Ervin and Snowden fouled out for FCA — to twice extend the lead to 11.
Girard College made 16-of-20 free throws in the fourth and connected on 26-of-37 for the game.
“We did feel like we definitely had an opportunity. I definitely did felt the first time we did not play our normal game,” DaCosta said. “And this time we obviously did and you saw that how we played today. Yeah, we felt it kind of got away from us a little bit and I tried to call some time outs and break the momentum up and make sure we had the right possessions offensively.
“But all in basketball you mature, as a team, you learn how to kind of get through these things and it’ll be a good growth experience for next year’s team.”
An 8-2 run by Girard College — six points from Copeland — put the Cavaliers up 21-13 in the first quarter before a Snowden bucket had Faith’s deficit down to six after the opening eight minutes.
Sawyer Smith’s three-point play tied things at 26 with 3:37 left in the half. Two Jones free throws nine seconds later had the Cavaliers back ahead 28-26 but the Lions collected the next five points — Sawyer Smith’s jumper giving FCA a 31-28 edge.
“I know that since we lost pretty bad that last time, I knew I needed to step my game up a little bit,” Sawyer Smith said. “Like hit some shots, get it going inside, keep their big from getting too much production.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 21, 2017
Copeland hit two from the foul line at 1:23 to make it 31-30 Faith at the break.
In the third, Copeland’s three-point play off a drive had Girard up 37-35 at 4:42 but Faith responded with 10-0 run. Darius Forney hit a triple, then Miki Foley scored five straight — his three-point play at 2:16 making it 43-37 Lions. Sawyer Smith capped the burst with a jumper for an eight-point advantage.
Girard College, however, sliced Faith’s lead down to 45-41 entering the fourth, then pulled level 45-45 after free throws from Copeland and Aquil Stewart.
Vitek and Sawyer Smith had the Lions back up four at 49-45. Sawyer Smith got two on a goaltending call for a 51-47 Faith lead but Toliver’s back-to-back buckets started the Cavaliers’ 12-0 run that gave them the lead for good.
Girard College 67, Faith Christian 58
Faith Christian 15 16 14 13 — 58
Girard College 21 9 11 26 — 67
Faith Christian: Zeke Snowden 7 0-0 14; Sawyer Smith 5 3-3 13; Charles Ervin 4 0-1 9; Miki Vitek 4 1-1 9; Anthony Sessa 3 0-0 7; Darius Forney 1 0-0 3; Landon Coyle 1 0-0 2; Derian Bradford 0 1-2 1. Totals 25 5-7 58.
Girard College: Daiquan Copeland 6 9-10 22; Mikeal Jones 4 9-14 17; Brandon Smith 2 6-7 10; Kasim Toliver 4 0-0 8; Craig Logan 2 0-0 6; Aquil Stewart 1 2-2 4. Totals 19 26-37 67.
Three-pointers: FCA-Ervin, Forney, Sessa; GC-Logan 2, Copeland.
Top Photo: Faith Christian’s Charles Ervin (20) drives to the basket against Girard College in the first half during their PIAA Class A semifinal on Monday, March 20, 2017 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog/Digital First Media)