BETHLEHEM >> You couldn’t make up the ending.
Either ending, for that matter.
Bottom line is it just didn’t work out Monday night for Bonner & Prendergast, which battled to overtime before surrendering a 56-51 decision to Abington Heights in their PIAA Class 5A state semifinal at Freedom High.
The Friars got two chances to create a miracle finish thanks to a ridiculous flurry at the final buzzer. When the dust settled, the officials put one second back on the clock and the Friars, down three points, had four chances to win it right there. Michael Perretta made three of the free throws to force overtime.
“I’ve been a part of some crazy stuff,” Friars coach Jack Concannon said. “Maybe one other (ending) was crazier. But I don’t know, what can I say? That was crazy.”
The Comets led, 48-45, when the final buzzer sounded. Fans threw the ceremonial Hershey kisses on the court to celebrate a trip to the state final in Hershey, and players came off the bench to join them.
Perretta and Concannon knew better.
“I was talking to the refs initially to try to figure out what was going on,” Perretta said. “I was in the ref’s face going ‘T, T!’ Fans threw stuff on the court. I got the rebound and I was trying to get to the three-point line and they bumped me. That’s how it ended.”
Perretta calmly sank three freebies while the Comets, uh, got spiritual.
“That’s when you pray,” Comets senior Jackson Danzig said. “You pray the kid misses and he did, and it was in our favor.”
The Friars (25-5) had a shot to tie at the regulation buzzer but Isaiah Wong, who scored a game-high 19 points, hit the iron. Perretta was fouled on the rebound with one tick left in regulation. The candy firing gave him a couple of extra shots.
“Mike, he had all the pressure on him,” Wong said. “I’m happy he made three of them to tie the game up. We couldn’t have asked anything more of him. I thought it was clutch. He gave us another chance. It just didn’t go our way in overtime.”
The Friars spent the first 90 seconds of overtime hustling but unable to put the ball in the basket. George Tinsley made two free throws to produce the first points of the extra session with 1:40 to go for the Comets (26-3), and the Friars had just one basket left in them — a three by Donovan Rodriguez cutting the gap to 54-51 with 13.5 seconds left.
“I was not expecting that whole end thing, where the clock ran out but we were all on the court too early,” Tinsley said. “It kind of gave us
all a scare when they had four shots and we were only up three. We knew we had to calm down and play defense on that last shot. It almost went in, but we were kind of lucky it didn’t. We had to come out aggressive in overtime.”
It was the end of a solid season for the Friars and Concannon. And it was another crazy story Concannon could put in his file. It was January of 1985 when Concannon played for the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. They left the Palestra thinking they were beaten by West Virginia, only to see the officials take points off the board and hand them the ‘W.’ A few days later league officials gave the Mountaineers a 51-50 victory. Go figure.
This ending, strange as it was, had more finality.
“We had a great year,” Concannon said. “I’m proud of these kids. I told them, ‘keep your heads up.’ From where we were four years ago to here. Now we’ve got to go to work for next year.”
Perretta has a story to tell, as well. Though he gave his team a chance, he’ll always remember that last free throw attempt.
“I tried to block everything out,” Perretta said. “The only thing I remembered was just missing the last one. You saw me jumping up and down. When I shot it, I thought it was going in. All I’ve got to say is we’ll bounce back next year. We’ve got unfinished business. The PCL and states.”
Bonner & Prendie got off to a solid start, James Welde beginning the scoring with a three-pointer in a 10-4 run against a Comets defense packing it in against Wong.
But Tinsley ignited a 10-2 burst with a three-pointer, giving the Comets their only lead of the first half, late in the frame.
The second quarter was more of the same. Though the Friars never were in serious trouble, constructing an eight-point advantage driving to the basket and nailing a trey, their opponent always answered. They did so even when Tinsley, the Comets’ most aggressive player, picked up his third foul with 1:42 left in the second period.
The Friars were ahead, 31-27, at the intermission in a first half that turned into a foul-fest. The officials spread 19 almost evenly between the teams.
The Comets led, 37-34, entering the fourth quarter.
It was knotted at 48 entering OT — thanks to Perretta.
“I was just telling him not to beat himself up because he kept us in the game,” teammate Ajiri Johnson said. “He gave us another chance.
The ball just didn’t bounce to us. It is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
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