If you only caught the first quarter of Friday night's District 2 Class 3A opening-round playoff game between Pittston Area and Crestwood, you would have thought the Patriots were going to run away with a victory.
But a 19-9 first-quarter lead was not enough for the eighth-seeded team as they only managed to score only 18 points the rest of the way in a 49-37 loss to the top-seeded Comets at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center Gym in Exeter.
Pittston Area's fast start was fueled by Wyoming Valley Conference leading scorer Steve Stravinski, who dropped 11 points in the first quarter. But the 6'3 swing man was held to only five more points the rest of the way - none in the final quarter.
"Best player in the league," said Pittston Area Head Coach Alan Keisinger about Stravinski. "He does a tremendous job on the offensive end and the defensive end, and he doesn't get the respect that he should.
"Crestwood is a very tough team. They get all the credit. They did a phenomenal job defensively."
After falling behind 5-1 early in the contest, Steve Sklanka hit a nice baseline up-and-under to spark the Patriots. Stravinski hit a three-pointer from straight away off of a Michael Schwab assist and the next trip down the floor, Schwab hit Stravinski again in the same spot to give PA a 9-5 lead.
Stravinski then hit Jordan Houseman on a backdoor cut for the layup, before the senior went to work in the post to bump the lead to 13-5. Crestwood ended the 12-0 Pittston Area run with a free throw but Sklanka hit a three off of a Houseman assist to push the lead to 16-6 with three minutes left in the opening stanza.
The Comets hit a three cutting the lead to 16-9 but Stravinski answered with a three of his own, giving the Patriots a 19-9 lead at the end of the first.
Sklanka scored the first points of the second quarter when he hit two free throws. Crestwood dropped in two at the 3:28 mark of the second to cut the PA lead to 21-11 before Houseman came back with a spin move into the paint and a nifty underhand layup to give the Patriots their biggest lead of the game at 23-11.
But the Comets clamped down defensively from that point, and scored five straight before Stravinski scored two after sealing his man off in the post. Crestwood hit the last bucket of the half to cut the PA lead to 25-19 at the intermission.
The third quarter started with a nice out of bounds play that led to a wide open layup for Sklanka. However, Crestwood used the three-ball to near perfection to take control. The Comets finished the night with 10 of its 14 field goals from three-point range.
With 4:19 left in the quarter, the Comets drained a three. Nearly 30 seconds later, they hit another, this one cutting the PA lead to 27-25.
Stravinski would fight back hitting a reverse layup while getting fouled, then hitting the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play, giving the Patriots a five-point lead with 3:40 left in the third.
Crestwood would answer back with a three-pointer to cut the lead back down to two.
Houseman then rattled off four straight, but the Comets hit the last basket of the third when they sank a three to cut the lead to 34-31. Crestwood outscored PA 12-9 in the third, all of the 12 coming from behind the arc.
The first points of the fourth came at the 5:37 mark when the Comets scored on a layup. A Crestwood free throw 30 seconds later tied the game at 34. A Schwab free throw with 4:47 left gave the Patriots the lead once again but it would be short-lived. Fourteen seconds after PA regained the lead, the Comets hit a three and one minute later they hit another giving them a 40-35 lead.
Houseman picked off a pass and converted the layup for the only PA basket of the quarter cutting the lead to 40-37. But Crestwood converted on nine free throws down the stretch to seal the 49-37 victory.
"They played their hearts out. They did a good job, they held a very good team to 49 points," said Keisinger. "We had a good start and we hit a drought, that's the story of the game."
Stravinski finished with 16 points – five below his season average. He also added seven rebounds for the Patriots.
Sklanka and Houseman added 10 points each for Pittston Area (13-10). Sklanka added five rebounds and Houseman chipped in with two assists.
Five-time District 2 Class 1A champion Old Forge will open defense of its titles on Tuesday against Forest City at a site and time yet to be determined.
The Blue Devils enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed after losing a flip of a coin with Susquehanna for the top-spot in the tournament. Both Old Forge (7-14) and the Sabers (6-15) went 3-11 in league play.
Old Forge has lost 10 of 12 coming into the tournament which they have dominated the past five years. But four of those losses have come by a total of just six points, and the Blue Devils play in the much tougher Lackawanna League Division II.
The Foresters are 2-20 overall with both victories coming in division play. But one of those victories was over Susquehanna to open second-half play in late January.
Seeded fourth, Forest City is led by 5'10 freshman guard Noah Fedak. Fedak averages 9.2 ppg and has 44 three-pointers on the season.
Susquehanna is led by high-scoring players Andrej Tomczyk and Cole Mallery. Tomczyk, a guard, is averaging over 20 points per game in Lackawanna League Division III play, and Mallery, a mid-season transfer, has averaged 18 ppg since his return in January.
The Sabers take on MMI Prep (6-15) also on Tuesday. The Preppers went 0-14 in WVC Division III play this season.
The winners will play Friday, March 2 for the D2 Class 1A title.