Life lessons, teaching moments for Mele & Mele; Hickory avenges loss, rallies past Prep, 56-37

Ed Farrell, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
·12 min read

Feb. 20—HERMITAGE — If life lessons are learned through athletics, Friday night's inter-region boys' basketball rivalry provided a teaching moment.

Hickory High Head Coach Chris Mele — moments into his Hornets' clash with Cathedral Prep — pulled his son Peyton, a senior returning All-State standout and career 1,000-point scorer.

Peyton Mele missed his first 3 floor shots, and the visiting Ramblers roared to a 12-5 first-quarter lead. However during the game's final 24 minutes Mele manufactured a game-high 24 markers, hoisting Hickory to a 56-37 win.

At The Hive, during the 4th frame marksman Mele made 11 of 13 free-throw attempts and scored 14 of the Hornets' 24 points. Hickory outscored Prep, 50-25, during that span.

A smiling Mele admitted regarding his relationship with his father/coach, " ... It's all love, at the end of the day ... "

"We ran a few sets for him to start the game. You know, he's never gonna get a wide-open look — very few times, 'cause teams key on him," mentor Mele began. "I thought he had a couple (early) looks where he's gotta take those shots. He got a little bit out of sync, then he forced one from about thirty feet. He'll make those from time to time, but ... I just took him out and got on him.

"I think it's a coach's nature to be harder on your son, and it's tough, it really is," the senior Mele continued, emotionally pointing out, "He's comin' to the close of his (scholastic) career ...

"You know, he's a great ballplayer," Mele said of his son. "He's been under a lot of pressure all year long from (opposing) defenses. But he really stepped up. He responded beautifully, he really, really did. (The Ramblers) were all over him, as they were at Prep (a 57-54 Ramblers' OT win), and he just did great. He helped us handle the ball, made his foul shots, and had a couple put-backs and buckets down low.

"With him, I just think sometimes he falls in love with the three-point line — kind've stays out there. (Friday) night I think he showed that he can do more than just shoot three's, and he's been like that his whole career."

In addition to Mele, Hickory was paced by senior standout Connor Evans' 16-point, 11-rebound double-double and Jackson Pryts' 8 points and 5 rebounds.

Evans' free throw with three-tenths of a second remaining to intermission had Hickory ahead, 20-18. While Mele (5), Pryts (4) and Evans (3) helped Hickory outscore Prep 15-6 during the 2nd stanza, the Ramblers were guilty of 3 turnovers and 2-for-9 shooting. Also, quicksilver Malachi Milsap incurred his 3rd personal foul with 5.8 ticks to play in the half. He sat out the entire 3rd period — by which time Hickory extended its edge to 32-28 — and did not return until 6:48 remained in the game, with the Hornets holding a 39-30 lead.

"I thought Malachi did a really good job of setting the tone (scoring 7 first-quarter points). I think we were up twelve-to-five because of Malachi," began 2nd-year Prep Head Coach Steve Piotrowicz. "But he got into foul trouble, unfortunately, and now it's a game of time — When do you put him in? When don't you put him in? I made the decision to not put him in until later to try and save him, but it just didn't work out."

Another Prep standout, 6-foot-5 post Khali Horton, who had 19 points in the Ramblers' win over Hickory at Erie, was limited to 3 points and 5 rebounds and incurred a pair of technical fouls. Milsap mustered a team-high 12 markers, matched by teammate Liam Galla.

"Give them credit, they got us a little unraveled with their (three-quarter-court) press, and they took us out of our offense a little bit. And I didn't do a good enough job of makin' sure our guys were in the right position," Piotrowicz reflected, adding, "and the biggest difference (between the teams' 2 meetings) was that they shot thirty-one free throws and we shot fourteen. You get that many free-throw attempts, you're probably gonna win a game."

Unofficially, Prep turned it over 16 times and connected 12 of 39 floor shots (30.7%), missing 9 of 10 during the final frame. Conversely, Hickory hit 16 of 45 field-goal attempts (35.5%) and converted 21 of 31 freebies (67.5), and made 9 miscues, but only 3 after intermission.

"We let them be more physical at Prep, and (Friday) night, the first half, they were physical, they were up in us," mentor Mele explained. "And our guys responded. At halftime, we came out and we were the aggressor. (The Ramblers) did not like our pressure. Our pressure defense was great. It really got them out of sync. We never wanted them to get into their offensive flow, and they didn't in the second half. ... To hold a team like Prep to thirty-seven points, that's sayin' something."

Prep (13-5) is in D-10 Class 5A. While the Ramblers have recorded a trio of wins over McDowell, they may meet Meadville for the crown.

"We're getting hit with a little bit of adversity right now. We're playin' some young guys, and the 'blue-print's' out on us," Piotrowicz continued. "We've just gotta come together more and try and figure this thing out one day at a time. Everything we want is still right in front of us. But we like playin' these games 'cause it is a challenge. Hickory's a really good team, they're very well coached, and they get you out of sorts in a lot of different ways. It's a good challenge ... "

Two-time defending District 10 Class 4A champion Hickory (13-2) has won 4 consecutive contests and 9 of its last 10.

"These are the games we want, and I know (the Ramblers) want 'em, they've played everybody, as well, and credit and hat's off to them," Mele said. "We've got four big games coming up in the region, so we're ready to go."

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Also Friday:

BOYS HOOPS

— Franklin 56, Grove City 45 — At "The Castle" in Franklin, the Knights (9-1, 13-3) picked up the Region 4 win over the Eagles (5-4, 5-6).

Franklin led 19-16 at the end of the 1st quarter and 26-23 at the break. The Knights outscored the Eagles 11-9 in the 3rd quarter and 19-13 in the 4th.

Franklin was 24-of-29 from the free-throw line while Grove City was 5-of-7.

Hayden Adams led the Knights with 16 points, Cade Adams scored 12, Zak Smith bucketed 11, and Easton Fulmer added 8 markers.

Michael Brooks had 16 points for Grove City, Isaac Criss tallied 11, and Luke Hostetler chipped in 6 points on 2 treys.

— Farrell 60, Mercer 48 — At Farrell, the Steelers (7-3, 9-4) followed up Thursday's win over Rocky Grove with a Region 1 victory over the Mustangs (6-5, 8-6).

The game was tied 8-all after 8 minutes and Farrell led 24-17 at the break. Both teams scored 16 points in the 3rd quarter and the Steelers outscored the Mustangs 20-15 in the final frame.

Christian Hartley had a game-high 19 points for Farrell, Lamont Samuels scored 11, and Omar Stewart added 10 points.

Jake Mattocks and Logan Turton led the way for Mercer with 16 points each.

Farrell is back in action today with a Region 1 game against Commodore Perry in Sheakleyville.

— Commodore Perry 33, Reynolds 30 — At Sheakleyville, Coach Eugene Grinnell's Panthers (1-11, 1-15) picked up their first win of the season in a Region 1 encounter against the Raiders (2-5, 2-5).

Karson Cropp sank a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the 33-30 lead with 24 seconds left in the game and CP held on for the win.

Cropp fired in 16 points to lead Commodore Perry, Kyle Stringert contributed 9 points, and Jordan Castona had 6.

Jacob Williams scored 9 points for the Raiders, Aidan Mull chipped in 8, and Dietrich Williams added 6.

GIRLS HOOPS

— Farrell 49, Mercer 36 — At Mercer, Coach Ed Turosky's Lady Steelers moved to 7-3 in Region 1 play and 9-4 overall with the win over Mercer.

Farrell jumped out to a 17-6 lead after 8 minutes and led 32-12 at halftime. Coach Aaron Cook's Lady M's outscored the Steelers 24-17 in the 2nd half.

Sanaa Brodie fired in 6 treys en route to a season-high 28 points for Farrell, Jordyne Scott added 11 points, and DeMariah Burns chipped in 5 points.

Peyton Miller led Mercer (6-5, 8-6) with 13 points, Mackenzie Baker bucketed 11, and Delaney Fisher and Julia Balaski added 4 points each.

Farrell plays a pair of Region 1 road games today. The Lady Steelers visit Rocky Grove at noon and then travel to Sheakleyville for a 6 p.m. tipoff against the Panthers.

— Shenango 40, Hickory 27 — At Shenango High, the WPIAL's Wildcats (13-6) picked up the win over the Hornets (7-8).

Shenango held a slim 21-18 lead at halftime and outscored Hickory 19-9 in the 2nd half to earn the victory.

Janie Natale (9 points), Kylee Rubin (9), and Kelly Cleaver (8) were the leading point-getters for Shenango.

Aniyah Anderson scored a game-high 15 points for Hickory.

BOYS BASKETBALL

PREP 12 6 10 9 37

HICKORY 5 15 12 24 56

CATHEDRAL PREP — Horton 1-1-4-3, Milsap 3-5-6-12, Innes 1-2-2-5, Colvin 0-1-2-1, Galla 5-0-0-12, Spencer 1-0-0-2, Pickens 0-0-0-0, Lydic 0-0-0-0, King-Vincent 1-0-0-2, Sambuchino 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Galla 2, Milsap 1. Totals: 12-9-14-37.

HICKORY — P.Mele 6-11-13-24, Cannone 2-0-0-5, Evans 3-9-14-16, Pryts 4-0-0-8, Fazzone 0-1-2-1, Boal 1-0-0-2. T.Mele 0-0-0-0, Hudson 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: P.Mele 1, Cannone 1. Totals: 16-21-31-56.

JV: No game.

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GROVE CITY 16 7 9 13 45

FRANKLIN 19 7 11 19 56

GROVE CITY — Criss 5-0-0-11, Stull 1-1-2-4, Irani 0-0-0-0, Lutz 0-0-0-0, Hostetler 2-0-0-6, Norris 1-0-0-2, Dreves 0-0-0-0, Brooks 5-4-5-16, Knouse 2-0-0-4, Martin 0-0-0-0, Pereira 1-0-0-2. 3-pt. goals: Hostetler 2, Brooks 2, Criss 1, Stull 1. Totals: 17-5-7-45.

FRANKLIN — C. Adams 1-10-10-12, Smith 4-1-2-11, Fulmer 1-6-8-8, Guth 3-0-2-6, H. Adams 3-7-7-16, Leccia 0-0-0-0, Curry 1-0-0-3. 3-pt. goals: H. Adams 3, Smith 2, Curry 1. Totals: 13-24-29-56.

JV: Grove City, 40-33. Jimmy Irani 14 for GC. Cole Buckley 10 for Franklin.

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MERCER 8 9 16 15 48

FARRELL 8 16 16 20 60

MERCER — Ellison 2-1-3-5, Co. Grossman 0-0-0-0, Ferrans 0-1-2-1, J. Mattocks 6-1-1-16, Haines 0-1-7-1, Pugh 1-0-0-2, Turton 4-6-6-16, Nickel 2-2-6-6, Lawrence 0-1-2-1. 3-pt. goals: J. Mattocks 3, Turton 2. Totals: 15-13-27-48.

FARRELL — Butler 1-3-3-5, Hartley 6-6-8-19, T. Holden 3-1-6-7, Stewart 4-2-3-10, J. Holden 1-0-0-2, O'Kane 0-0-0-0, Wilson 1-0-0-2, Samuels 4-2-3-11, Scarbrough 0-1-2-1, Richardson 1-0-0-3. 3-pt. goals: Hartley 1, Samuels 1, Richardson 1. Totals: 21-15-25-60.

JV: No score reported.

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REYNOLDS 5 6 12 7 30

COMM. PERRY 0 9 15 9 33

REYNOLDS — J. Williams 4-0-0-9, Mull 4-0-0-8, D. Williams 3-0-2-6, Miller 1-2-5-4, Small 1-0-0-3, Geiwitz 0-0-0-0, Loposky 0-0-0-0, Tofani 0-0-0-0, Winkle 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: J. Williams 1, Small 1. Totals: 12-2-7-30.

COMMODORE PERRY — Cropp 5-5-8-16, Stringert 4-0-1-9, Jo. Castona 3-0-1-6, Ja. Castona 1-0-0-2, Dr. Yeagley 0-0-0-0, Dw. Yeagley 0-0-0-0, Saxe 0-0-0-0, Jones 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Cropp 1, Stringert 1. Totals: 13-5-10-33.

JV: No score reported.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

FARRELL 17 15 4 13 49

MERCER 6 6 9 15 36

FARRELL — Burns 2-1-3-5, Stewart 1-0-2-2, Brodie 10-2-5-28, King 1-1-2-3, Scott 5-1-2-11. 3-pt. goals: Brodie 6. Totals: 19-5-14-49.

MERCER — Fisher 2-0-0-4, Balaski 2-0-2-4, G. Godfrey 0-0-0-0, Baker 5-0-0-11, Grossman 1-0-0-2, P. Miller 6-1-2-13, Morneweck 1-0-0-2. 3-pt. goal: Baker 1. Totals: 17-1-4-36.

JV: No game.

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HICKORY 10 8 5 4 27

SHENANGO 10 11 10 9 40

HICKORY — Beach 0-0-0-0, Gustas 3-1-2-7, Anderson 4-7-11-15, Fustos 2-1-2-5, Swanson 0-0-0-0, Jones 0-0-0-0. Totals: 9-9-15-27.

SHENANGO — Natale 2-5-8-9, DeCarbo 3-0-0-7, Peters 2-3-4-7, Rubin 4-1-2-9, Iwanejko 0-0-0-0, Bryant 0-0-0-0, Kays 0-0-0-0, Lenhart 0-0-0-0, Long 0-0-0-0, DePaolo 0-0-0-0, Emerick 0-0-0-0, Cleaver 4-0-0-8. 3-pt. goal: DeCarbo 1. Totals: 15-9-14-40.

JV: Shenango, 33-20. Mariah Swanson 12 for Hickory.