Sankofa Academy ends Lebanon Catholic's season
Anthony Pletz scores 18 but Beavers fall in first round of states BY MIKE GROSS, Sports Columnist
LEBANON -- For a few minutes Friday night, things went just as Lebanon Catholic basketball coach Scott Clentimack, with hopeful imagination, had pictured them.
"I was seeing us shooting it really well, and maybe getting some things out of execution,'' Clentimack said. "I was imagining us shooting maybe … 12 for 19 from three.''
And three minutes into Catholic's Class A state playoff game with Sankofa Academy, the Beavers had scored on every possession, including 2 for 2 from the 3-point arc, and led 10-2.
Then Philadelphia Public League reality set in.
Sankofa -- formally Sankofa Freedom Academy -- pulled away late to end Catholic's season, 54-41, in a first-round game at Lebanon High School.
The Warriors, in just their third year of PIAA membership, came in 14-12, the third seed from District 12.
Clentimack knew almost nothing about them; the couple scouting calls he made yielded little.
"But I knew where they play, and who they play against,'' he said. "I figured they had to be better than their record.''
Sankofa was not only athletic -- Catholic expected that -- but also very disciplined and organized, especially on the defensive end.
Coach Isiah Thomas (no, not him) called time just 90 seconds in. His troops answered that 10-2 deficit with a 15-2 run.
Then Anthony Thomas, Catholic's point guard and perhaps most athletic player, went down hard in the lane and for a long while didn't get up. He had to be helped off and was done for the night and the season with an ankle injury.
"I guess I'd say (it was) huge,'' Clentimack said. "He averages 10 points a game, he handles the ball, he's athletic. … You never know.''
Sankofa's quickness had forced Catholic into a zone defense. On their first two possessions of the second half, the Warriors hit a three and a 17-footer and led, 31-22.
It felt over, but it wasn't quite. The Beavers went back to man-to-man and created some havoc. They scored nine straight, all by Anthony Pletz and Timmy Orr, to pull within 35-33.
But Catholic could get little except for threes from their halfcourt offense. It missed the next six it tried, and soon Sankofa had a working margin again.
Anthony Wright-Downing, a very athletic 6-2 small forward-type, led the Warriors with 20 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and dunked three times.
Pletz emptied his chamber and led Catholic with 18. Orr, in the final game of a superb career, added 12, and Alex Fratteroli 11.
Catholic (18-8), whose program neared rock bottom over the past couple years, emerged triumphant this winter, and won the Lancaster-Lebanon League's only District Three boys' title since Lancaster Catholic in 2011.
And Orr is the only key senior.
"I told them, 'I don't have a problem. They're better than us,' " Clentimack said. "It's not like we went out and laid an egg.
"We have that district title that nobody can take away, and I don't know how we can replace Timmy, but we're already looking forward to next year.''