Reading High earns overtime win over Erie McDowell in PIAA Class 6A boys basketball playoffs

Mar. 14—ALTOONA — After hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first half to give his team a four-point lead, Reading High sophomore Weshly Rosario knew there was still work to be done.

"We got to the locker room and they (my teammates) were trying to celebrate but I said, 'Yo, this game is not done, the second half is back at zero,'" Rosario said.

And he was right, as the neck-and-neck PIAA Class 6A boys basketball second-round matchup went down to the wire, and then some.

With the game tied with 8.4 seconds left in regulation, Rosario carried the ball up the court and once again heaved up a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that hit the rim and fell off the mark, forcing overtime.

Once there, the Red Knights (21-10) did what they do best — played relentless defense and relied on their exceptional conditioning to earn a 54-47 overtime win over Erie McDowell on Wednesday night.

"I think in overtime we did a good job of just making the whole view blurry," Reading High coach Francis Camara said. "We finished possessions, boxed out on rebounds and we capitalized offensively."

With the win, the Red Knights, the fourth-place team from District 3, will face Coatesville, the sixth-place team from District 1, in the quarterfinal round on Saturday at a time and location to be announced. Coatesville defeated District 3 champion Cumberland Valley 52-37 in a second-round game on Wednesday night.

Reading High fell to Coatesville 69-51 in the regular season.

"I want this (next) win because I want revenge," Rosario said.

6-6 forward Tyler Grove, who had a team-high 17 points for the Trojans, scored the opening basket of overtime to give Erie McDowell a 47-45 lead, which would prove to be its last.

Moments later, Red Knights freshman Jeremiah Camara, who finished with 10 points, sank two free throws.

Then, senior center Malik Osumanu found fellow senior Nick Chapman with a smooth pass down low and Chapman banked one in off the glass to give Reading High a 49-47 lead with 2:20 to go. It was Chapman's first field goal of the game.

From there, the Red Knights went 5-for-10 from the foul line and Grove missed numerous shots while handling the bulk of possession for the Trojans (21-6), the District 10 champions.

Cruz went 1-for-2 from the line during the span and Rosario was 4-for-8, but made the final two foul shots to close out the scoring. Cruz finished with a game-high 21 points and was 9-for-11 from the line overall.

"The difference was us keeping our composure down the stretch," Francis Camara said. "Everybody's tired (this late in the season). Everybody's hurt right now. So at the end of the day, it's more of a mental thing, and that's what our conditioning is about.

"Our conditioning is more mental than it is physical because at the end of the day, your body is not broken. Your body can move. It's your mentality telling your body you can't. Our conditioning is the reason why we're able to finish these games and be composed throughout these games."

After trailing 25-21 after halftime, the Trojans outscored Reading High 12-10 in the third and again in the fourth as both teams exchanged leads late.

Two foul shots by Quentin Orlando broke a tie and gave Erie McDowell a 41-39 lead with four minutes left in regulation.

However, Rosario came up clutch from deep by completing a four-point play shortly after coming off the bench with 3:44 remaining.

Orlando scored the next four points to give Erie McDowell the lead back before Cruz tied it 45-45 with a smooth up-and-under layup with 1:34 left.

The Trojans failed to score in the final minute, despite holding the ball for the majority of the time, setting up Rosario's game-winning attempt.

"At the end of the day you're in the state playoffs, and teams make runs and these teams are very good," Francis Camara said. "One mistake here or one mistake there can turn into a long run. So they just made their run at us all right after we made our run and we finished strong in the fourth.

"Then we had an opportunity to finish the game in the fourth quarter. I think we could have got a better shot than that, but that's just growth moments that we've been living through this season and I trust the kids to make the play."

The aforementioned mental toughness proved imperative down the stretch as Chapman, Rosario, and Osumanu all played with four fouls for the majority of the fourth quarter.

Rosario picked up his fourth foul early in the third and had to sit until returning with 4:53 remaining in the fourth with Reading High down 39-38.

"I was frustrated and kept my head down (on the bench), but my teammates told me to, 'Keep my head up, you'll come back on and we'll get the win,'" Rosario said.

Despite being in foul trouble, Rosario still finished second in scoring with 17 points. Additionally, he had three assists and three rebounds.

Also despite playing in foul trouble, Osumanu was able to use his own length at 6-5 and limit the scoring opportunities for Grove late in the game.

He finished with a team-high seven rebounds

With Osumanu frequently covering Grove, sometimes with the help of his teammates on the double team, Grove was held to just one point in the fourth and the opening two-pointer in overtime.

He finished 6-for-19 shooting.

"Honestly, (the plan was) to just make him shoot over top of me and take him out of the game," Osumanu said. "Because for their team, he takes half of the shots every single time, so I knew if I took him out of the game, it was gonna be hard for them to score.

"Getting to the end of the game, I was able to force him into taking (bad) shots that he would miss."

Grove's presence early on allowed Erie McDowell to control the tempo. He scored seven in the first quarter as the Trojans took a 13-7 lead heading into the second quarter.

Trailing 21-16 in the second, Reading High went on a 9-0 run to close out the first half.

Yadiel Cruz gave the Red Knights a 22-21 lead after making a contested basket under the rim and converting the and-1 opportunity.

Moments later, Erie McDowell turned it over on an inbounds play before Rosario corralled the loose ball and launched a shot with under a second to go that hit nothing but net.

"I'm glad he's on my team; the kid is amazing," Francis Camara said of Rosario. "The kid wants to win so bad, not for himself, but for his teammates. And you see that in the way he plays because he's a selfless player. He's always looking for his teammates.

"And he's very, very emotional. Sometimes his emotions kind of get to him, but we've all watched him this year grow through all of that. He's done a lot of maturing this year and I'm just glad to have him on our side."

While their sights are set on earning a redemptive win over the Red Raiders (21-8) on Saturday, for Osumanu, the ability to play another 32 minutes with his lifelong friends is what's most important.

"It feels great, especially since we want to end it off on a good note as seniors," Osumanu said. "We've been playing since we all started playing basketball.

"So we're just trying to do our best and end off on a good note. That would really mean a lot to us."