By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
CARBONDALE – Abington Heights stayed cool in the face of a Dallas rally, then reached for the ice packs.
George Tinsley scored 25 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and helped the defending state Class 5A boys basketball champions secure their return trip to the state tournament with Friday’s 59-51 victory the Mountaineers in a District 2 semifinal.
Tinsley brought an end to the physical battle with a dunk in the closing seconds, finally finishing off a Dallas team that fought back from 16 down midway through the third quarter to get within five twice in the fourth.
“This was definitely our most physical game in a while,” said Trey Koehler, who added 17 points and 9 rebounds while helping the Comets to a 35-26 rebounding advantage. “ … We were trying to stay composed while still playing physical and to the best of our abilities.”
With the win, Abington Heights also landed a spot in the district championship game where it will face Crestwood March 1 at 8 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The Lackawanna League Division 1 champions have won seven straight district titles, including the last three years at the arena.
Koehler and Tinsley both identified the same reason Abington Heights was able to get through the game.
“These guys on my team, I have to give it to them,” said Tinsley, one of multiple Comets seen applying ice bags when the game was over. “They stay cool and calm.
“The experience on this team is very helpful to us.”
Though often dominant on the local level, the Comets have gained that experience through a series of particularly tense games in their recent deep state tournament runs.
“The key is being calm and composed,” Koehler said.
Corey Perkins overcame a first-half injury scare to score all 10 of his points in the second half while also leading the Comets with 4 assists.
Jack Farrell led Dallas with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Justin Finarelli added 10 points.
Sam Nocito had six of his eight points and all five of his assists in the second half.
Koehler, Tinsley and Jack Nealon each had six points to help Abington Heights to an 18-10 lead after one quarter.
Luke DelGaudio opened the scoring for Dallas, but that was the only Mountaineers lead of the game.
The Comets scored the next 11, four each by Tinsley and Koehler, combined with a 3-pointer by Nealon.
Abington Heights used the last five points of the first quarter and first five of the second for a 23-10 lead. Koehler scored four points while Nealon and Tinsley each had 3-pointers in that streak.
Tinsley hit two more 3-pointers while scoring 11 in the second quarter. He finished the half with 17 points for a 31-18 lead.
The Abington Heights lead peaked at 38-22 before Finarelli scored the next seven points with all three baskets coming on Nocito assists.
Dallas kept charging with Nocito driving for baskets to cut the deficit to 49-44 with 3:30 left and 51-46 with 2:26 to play.
Perkins scored two baskets and found Tinsley for an easy score while breaking the press, more than offsetting a late 3-pointer by Dylan Schuster.
The Mountaineers got within two scores with nine seconds left, but a long pass by Perkins found Tinsley behind the defense for the game-ending dunk.
The loss left Dallas in a third-place game with Wallenpaupack Tuesday to determine the district’s final Class 5A state berth.
FRIDAY BOYS ROUNDUP: Wyoming Seminary, Holy Redeemer, Crestwood also win semifinals. http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/BoysRoundup022219.