SCRANTON – Winning District 2 titles and advancing into the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A state tournament have become routine accomplishments for the Old Forge boys basketball program.
State playoff wins, however, have remained a precious commodity.
Seniors Nick Pelosi and Jaret Horn made sure the Blue Devils were back to celebrating state tournament success Friday night.
Pelosi scored 24 points, made six steals and dished out five assists, all game-high totals, while leading Old Forge past Cowanesque Valley, 63-50, in a Class A first-round game at Lackawanna College.
“We really wanted this win,” said Pelosi, who also grabbed six rebounds.
The Blue Devils have made 10 straight state tournament appearances, nine as district champion. They have won four straight district title, including three under coach Jared Yanniello, but had exited the tournament in the first round while playing close to home in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“To coach, to get his first playoff win was huge,” Pelosi said. “Last year, we just came out and kind of laid an egg, so we really wanted this one.”
Before Pelosi scored 15 second-half points to help hold off some threats by the Indians, Horn made sure there was a significant lead to protect.
Horn had 11 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in the first 5:01 to fuel a 14-3 run from the game’s only tie to a 16-5 lead.
“I really wanted to come out fast and come out strong,” said Horn, who went 4-for-4 from the floor, including two 3-point baskets and a three-point play early.
Cowanesque Valley used an eight-point streak in the middle of the third quarter to close within, 34-32.
Brandon Nee hit a 3-pointer and reached over the shoulders of two Indians to tip in a shot at the buzzer as the Blue Devils scored the last eight points of the quarter for a 45-34 lead.
“I don’t think things really got away from us,” Nee said. “Our seniors, Nick Pelosi stepping up; Jaret Horn taking the big charges; and Ben Grochowski really opened up their zone for us.
“That’s how we got some open shots and we ran away with it.”
Grochowski finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Horn added 12 points.
Bryant Painter led Cowanesque Valley with 26 points.
Old Forge (15-9) advanced to play Math, Civics & Science from Philadelphia (12-14) in Tuesday’s second round.
Grochowski helped make sure the Blue Devils reached the state tournament when he had 23 points and 11 rebounds in a 59-40 victory over top-seeded Forest City in the district final Feb. 27 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
After playing every game of their Lackawanna League Division 3 schedule against larger schools, Old Forge opened the district tournament with a 74-44 rout of Lackawanna Trail, kicking off the time of season when the Blue Devils annually dominate other northeastern Pennsylvania small schools.
“We battle all year long in the Lackawanna League and it gets us ready for districts and this time of the year,” Yanniello said after Pelosi scored 17 points and Grochowski 15 in the win to begin the postseason.
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