JACKSON TWP — It was far from pretty, but Seneca Valley wasn’t searching for style points.
The Raiders needed a win and they got it.
SV’s defense held North Allegheny to less than 10 points in each of the first three quarters in a 39-32 boys basketball victory against the visiting Tigers Tuesday night.
The result clinches a WPIAL playoff spot for the Raiders (13-7, 6-5) for the first time in four seasons and ends NA’s postseason hopes.
“It feels awesome to be going to the playoffs,” said SV senior guard Jake Bunofsky, who, along with Chris Hart, paced the Raiders with 12 points. “It’s been a while since Seneca Valley has been there and it feels good to get there with this group of guys. Hopefully, we can make a run.”
The Tigers were without Curtis Aiken, their star guard who is out with a knee injury. They struggled offensively, but senior guard Ray Sandherr’s trey tied the game at 31 with 3:14 left in the game.
But the Raiders closed the game with an 8-1 run, beginning with Hart’s bucket with three minutes left.
Aiken averaged 19 points per game last season as a junior. He has now missed seven games this season and will undergo surgery next week.
Sandherr and Anthony Hattrup both scored 10 points to lead the Tigers (7-13, 3-8).
“I feel bad for our kids. They played their hearts out,” said NA coach Keith Noftz. “We hold Seneca to 39 points, but still don’t win because we can’t score. Every time down the floor, it’s such a struggle for us. We need to find some firepower between now and next season.”
Gabe Lawson, Hart, Bunofsky and Dalton Peffer each hit free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
“We kept our poise late in the game,” said Raiders coach Victor Giannotta. “We didn’t turn the ball over, and we hit foul shots. Our defense was absolutely tremendous tonight.”
“We’ve played a lot of close games this season and lost a few,” said Bunofsky, “but I think we’re learning how to close games out.”
Seneca Valley would not have been eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but the Raiders would’ve needed to win Friday at Butler or have North Hills defeat North Allegheny.
“We didn’t want it to come down to a game against Butler for a third straight year,” said Giannotta. “They’re a very good team. Now we can play loose and play for a better seed.
“When we have our full complement of players, we are 13-2 this season,” he added. “If we can stay healthy, we are going to be tough to beat.”
NORTH ALLEGHENY 32
Zach Johnson 2 0-0 4, Mike Iuzillino 1 2-2 5, Walker Davidson 1 0-0 3, Ray Sandherr 4 1-2 10, Anthony Hattrup 4 2-3 10, Mike Egnaczyk 0 0-0 0, Nico Erimias 0 0-0 0, Justin Altmeyer 0 0-0 0, Stephen Humphries 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 5-7 32.
SENECA VALLEY 39
Jake Bunofsky 3 4-4 12, Chris Hart 4 3-4 12, Gabe Lawson 0 1-2 1, Marcus Might 2 2-2 6, David Ritchie 2 0-0 5, Dalton Peffer 0 3-4 3, Josh Rupert 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 13-16 39.
North Allegheny 9 5 6 12 — 32
Seneca Valley14 5 7 13 — 39
3-point goals: North Allegheny 3 (Iuzillino, Davidson, Sandherr); Seneca Valley 4 (Bunofsky 2, Hart, Ritchie).
Friday: Seneca Valley at Butler