YATESVILLE – Kyre Zielinski brought Wyoming Area back in the third quarter.
Sam Greenfield put the Warriors into the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Zezza got them there to stay in the final seconds.
The three seniors each made contributions to the second-half comeback Wednesday night when Wyoming Area used a basket and steal by Zezza in the final 3.2 seconds to pull out a 44-43 victory over Hanover Area in a District 2 Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinal at Pittston Area.
“We really got a great effort from the seniors in the second half and I think that made the difference,” Wyoming Area coach Pete Moses said.
Zezza had the biggest plays.
Greenfield scored all 15 of his points in the second half, but he fouled out with 8.6 seconds left, stopping Tyler Thomas on a drive to the basket with the game tied, 42-42.
Thomas made the first of two foul shots.
Matt Wright helped control the rebound, immediately handing the ball off to Zezza, who was supposed to receive the in-bounds pass if Thomas had hit another, according to plans drawn up by Moses in the huddle.
Zezza headed up court and didn’t stop until the Warriors had the lead.
“The plan was me to get the ball and go up the sideline,” Zezza said. “We had a shooter in the corner, a shooter in the other corner and we had Kyre coming off a screen.”
The shooters were positioned and Zielinski was trailing the play trying to get into position in time.
Zezza just kept going, splitting two defenders near the 3-point line and hitting a running shot from just to the right of the lane while drawing a foul.
“As soon as I had a lane and an opening to the basket, I just knew I was going all the way,” he said.
Zezza’s basket gave Wyoming Area a one-point lead with 3.2 seconds left.
“We knew that with Sammy fouled out on the bench, he was one of the guys we were probably going to lean on in the last minute of the game,” Moses said.
When Zezza missed the foul shot, Hanover Area controlled the rebound and called timeout with 2.5 seconds left.
Wyoming Area covered up most of Hanover Area’s options and Zezza tipped away, then controlled a long pass to near midcourt, securing the win and a spot in the semifinals.
To get there, the Warriors had to overcome a 12-point offensive effort in the first half to fall behind by eight.
“I feel like we just didn’t have the fire in the first half,” Zezza said.
Assistant coach Rich Musinski helped the Warriors locate it at halftime.
“Something just clicked,” said Zezza, who finished with 11 points. “It kind of kicked in that this could have been our last game.”
Hesitant at first to try a zone defense because of Hanover Area’s ability to hit 3-pointers, Moses decided it was time to make the move.
“There was a lack of energy, a lack of enthusiasm,” Moses said. “I thought that the press was the change we needed.
“It got us the energy we needed and it got us the tempo that we needed.”
Zielinski set the new pace. He led the full-court pressure, making three of the steals as Wyoming Area forced nine third-quarter turnovers. He scored seven of his 11 points in the third and got the offense going in other ways.
“He just played a great game and really got the defense going,” Moses said. “Sammy got a couple of those open looks because of his penetration and drawing the defense.”
Greenfield heated up in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points. He had five, including the go-ahead 3-pointer when Wyoming Area scored seven straight in a span of just 26 seconds to finally take the lead, 40-39, with 1:58 left.
“Sammy’s got an ability to stretch the floor,” Moses said. “He’s got the ability to knock a shot down out on the perimeter and he’s got the ability to get to the basket. He had a bad, bad first half with turnovers and zero (points).”
The Warriors left the first-half struggles behind them and kept going in the district tournament.
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