NEW CASTLE — Andrew Recchia couldn't contain his emotions when he walked off the court after fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
The Mars senior point guard buried his head into the shoulder of Planets' coach Rob Carmody and wept.
At a timeout shortly after, Michael Carmody leaned down and consoled Recchia with a hug on the bench.
It was an emotional end to the season for the Mars boys basketball team after a 73-55 loss to Moon Monday night in the PIAA 5A semifinals at New Castle High School.
“Kids throw around the word love a lot,” said Coach Carmody. “'I love my radio. I love my car. I love this and that. But that's love. They're crying because they love their teammates and it's real. I would be disappointed if Andrew didn't cry. He should cry. He should care.”
The defeat was a tough one to take for Mars (27-2).
The loss ended a 22-game winning streak for the Planets.
It was also the first loss by Mars to a team from Pennsylvania — it lost to Birmingham Charter, a team from California, in Las Vegas in December.
And it came to a Moon team the Planets rallied from 18 down to beat in the WPIAL final a little more than two weeks ago.
There would be no rally this time.
Moon (27-2) didn't do much wrong, never trailed, and led by 11 at the half.
But always in the back of the Tigers' minds was what happened at the Petersen Events Center on the first day of March when they watched Mars launch an epic second-half comeback, erasing an 18-point lead in the third quarter.
Not this time.
Mars trimmed a 16-point Moon lead to 11 less than a minute into the fourth quarter, but couldn't get any closer.
“We never could find that gear to get it to six or seven,” Rob Carmody said. “When you're up by 11 and shooting, the basket looks a little bigger. At the Pete it was a one-point game the last time and the basket's not that big anymore.”
Moon's 6-foot-6 forward Donovan Johnson staked the Tigers to that halftime lead with 15 of his game-high 28 points in the second quarter.
Johnson hit three 3-pointers in the frame, including one from well behind the arc that kept the Planets at bay.
Johnson was 10-of-12 from the floor. Moon as a team was a scintillating 25-of-36 from the field.
“He's done that all season,” said Moon coach Adam Kaufman. “He's obviously a special player. In these big moments, he steps it up. He scored in every possible way you can score in a basketball game tonight.”
Johnson had just 13 points in the WPIAL championship game against Mars. This time, Moon went to a smaller lineup, which left Michael Carmody with the task of guarding Johnson.
The junior didn't fare too badly against Johnson for the most part, but Johnson's range opened up lanes for Moon's guards to drive the lane.
Jioni Smith took advantage of that with 10 of his 15 points in the third — most coming on slashes to the hoop.
“We could have had a 5-6 guy on Johnson and it wouldn't have mattered,” Rob Carmody said. “Everything that left his hands looked good.”
For Moon, the win wasn't about revenge.
“Honestly, that wasn't the motivation. Mars wasn't the motivation,” Kaufman said. “It was about winning something with this group of guys and we're almost there. We got one more game to go. I'm really proud of the fact we played a complete game tonight.”
Michael Carmody scored 19 points and Recchia added 14 to lead the Planets.
Even Rob Carmody could only shrug and throw his arms out to his side when talking about the game Moon played against his team.
“They beat us,” he said. “Give all the credit in the world to Moon. They played fantastic.”
Mars' season ends with the most wins in school history. The Planets are 52-6 over the last two seasons with two WPIAL titles, a state championship game appearance and a Final Four visit.
“Like I said to the guys: You don't have anything to be embarrassed about,” Rob Carmody said. “Walk out of here, wipe your tears off, hold your head up high and zip up that shirt and let everyone know you played at Mars because it's unbelievable what you've done this year. I'm so proud of them. Those tears and emotion tell me we did something right.”