Pacelli Boys Come Up Short on Upset Bid
By Ken McKenzie
The Pacelli boys’ basketball team battled to the very last possession Friday night but came up just short in their upset bid of conference leading Amherst, falling 58-57.
The Falcon win is the second major setback suffered by Pacelli in recent weeks after mounting a six game win streak dating back to the holidays that positioned them as a spoiler team entering the season stretch drive.
“We got into some foul trouble early,” said Pacelli Coach Brad Rutta. “That forced us to make some offense/defense substitutions to protect our situation. They (Amherst) are just too good to let them go up by 12 or 15 and expect you can recover. Under the circumstances, I was pleased to be down only seven (32-25) at the half.”
Amherst’s Tyler Biadasz made his post presence felt right away as the game opened, scoring on a post spin move and lay in while drawing the Pacelli foul. James Gollon used a head fake and then laid in a shot to create the first tie.
Connor Zblewski hit a triple from the left corner but Troy Fluguar matched distance from the high right arc for the hosts. Chris Shibilski then gave Pacelli the lead at 5:13 scoring off the dish from Gollon. Zblewski repeated his familiar corner shot with Gollon coming right back to push the Cards in front with a fall-away jumper from the right corner for a 9-8 lead; it was the last the Cards would see for some time.
A basket by Amiah McCall and Zblewski’s third trey gave Amherst the 13-9 edge with Colin Jamison answering for Pacelli. Amherst then hit two of four free throws in the final two minutes with Shibilski using a penetrating drive with 8.1 seconds remaining to bring the Cards back to a two-point deficit at quarter’s end, 15-13.
Harry Piotrowski hit twin free throws and added a field goal as Amherst pushed ahead at 19-13 with Shibilski splitting a pair of free tosses before Biadasz scored on a drive and hop stop to give a 21-14 advantage to Amherst. Gollon knocked down a jumper from up top before Cameron Gaulke hit a right baseline jumper to push the margin to seven at 23-16 with 3:49 remaining in the half.
Shibilski twice split free toss pairs with Gaulke scoring on a rebound put back. Garrett Groshek scored on the back side of the offensive set, basically testing Gollon to see if they could entice a third foul; with Gaulke later splitting a pair of free tosses before Zblewski hit on a rebound goal to push the margin to an even dozen. Shibilski hit twice from the line and added a field goal as the Cards drew closer but Biadasz answered for Amherst with Gollon hitting a trey in the final seconds to edge Pacelli ever closer at 32-25.
Gollon and Shibilski each dropped shots to open the third with Biadasz scoring from inside deep with Gollon getting another jumper to drop to draw to 34-31. Zblewski penetrated the lane on the dribble; finishing with the right hand at 4:46with Gollon hitting twin tosses to make it 36-33. Biadasz then found Groshek for an easy, second chance score.
Shibilski scored in heavy traffic with Gollon drawing the Cards back to within one at the three minute mark when he penetrated the lane and let the rim action help his jumper drop at 38-37 and giving Amherst cause to use a full time out at 2:53.
Amherst next orchestrated a nice score, with Biadasz cutting across the lane for an easy catch and shoot. Gollon answered at 2:11 but Groshek hit a three-pointer from the top arc to again push ahead by four. Pacelli’s Fluguar then got another roar out of the home crowd with a three-point shot from the left arc to close in at 43-42 with 00:39 left in the quarter.
Pacelli twice had offensive possessions with opportunity to retake the lead but came away empty with Piotrowski then driving the lane and finishing with a left hand bank shot to close the quarter at 45-42.
Gaulke scored off a backside pass to open the fourth for the Falcons; stretching the lead before Groshek drove to the hole to push ahead seven at 49-42. Shibilski drove hard into traffic and hit the bank shot with a leaner to trim the margin but Amherst answered once more with Gaulke tipping the rebound to Biadasz for the score at 6:05.
Gollon dropped both of his free throws at 5:25 with Biadasz matching those tosses with two of his own at 5:07 to take the score to 53-46. Jamison connected with a trey from the top to again incite the home crowd and bring hope at 53-49 at4:51 of the fourth.
Shibilski scored and hit the plus-one free toss to leave the margin at one, 53-52 with 4:04 to play. Biadasz showed patience on the next possession, finding McCall when he felt the double-team come. Down three and missing on consecutive efforts, Pacelli was fortunate that a travel was called when Biadasz shuffled his feet before completing the lay in.
Pacelli talked things over but missed their next opportunity to tie and Jamison shared on a breakout, two-on-one with Gollon’s score at the rim again tightening to a single point at 55-54. Next possession, Pacelli came up empty but again were spared when Biadasz used one too many pivots, earning the three-second call while posting up in the lane.
Again the Cards couldn’t land a score with Zblewski hitting the first of two free throws with 37.4 seconds to play to put the lead at 56-54. With :22 remaining, Jamison rained a trey, putting Pacelli ahead for only the third time on the night (57-56) and first time since the score was 9-8.
Gollon was fouled on an inbounds but logged a rare free throw miss on the front end bonus opportunity with Pacelli whistled a personal foul at 5.5 seconds to send Zblewski back to line where he hit the first one to tie with a time out making him wait before he connected on the second to give Amherst what would be their final margin, 58-57.
Pacelli’s intentions of Gollon getting the pass away if and when he was doubled were thwarted and hard contact on the pass connection was ignored as the final horn sounded without the Cards getting a true final look.
“These games (with Amherst) are always close,” said Coach Rutta. “We clawed our way back and played much better in the second half, especially defensively.”
“We had a chance (front end of one and one bonus situation) to seal the deal with free throws and we missed. And Connor (Amherst’s Zblewski) hit his clutch shots and they got the win.”
Coach Rutta noted the solid play by center Shibilski as he carried extra weight given Gollon’s foul trouble.
“He was ‘All-Conference’ tonight. Night after night he gives up three or four inches and usually quite a few pounds and he just battles on in the paint,” he added. “In the end, I was proud of our effort; kudos to Amherst as they likely about wrapped up the conference title with this win. They’re the best offensive rebounding team in the conference and it showed tonight.”
The loss leaves the Cardinals at 8-10 on the season and 5-5 in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference. Pacelli now puts their road shoes back on for a trip to Manawa on Tuesday and then hosts Weyauwega-Fremont next Friday, leaving just two more games after that on the regular season schedule.
Pacelli Scoring: Troy Flugaur 6, James Gollon 23, Chris Shibilski 20, Colin Jamison 8, 3-point shots: Pacelli 5: Jamison 2, Fluguar 2, Gollon 1.