It had been 26 years since Peters Township previously advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals, while Penn Hills last accomplished the feat just last season.
A late-winter drive to Altoona on Tuesday got the teams back to that point and kept the state championship hopes alive for two groups of Indians.
District 7 went 2-0 against District 3, with WPIAL champion Penn Hills defeating Hershey, 50-42, and WPIAL runner-up Peters Township edging Lampeter-Strasburg, 58-56, in PIAA Class 5A second-round games at Altoona High School.
Peters Township (24-4) played what turned out to be a thriller against Lampeter-Strasburg (20-8), the No. 7 team from District 3. Peters Township led, 58-54, before Lampeter-Strasburg’s Chase Smucker scored to cut the deficit to 58-56 with 10 seconds left. Peters Township then committed a turnover via a bad pass just after inbounding, giving Lampeter-Strasburg one final possession with seven seconds left. But Smucker misfired on a jumper and, after an offensive rebound, Dean Herr missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
“When it left his hand, I thought it was in,” Peters Township coach Joe Urmann said of the final shot. “I thought it was on its way in, but luckily it came off. Our senior, Jake Ziegler, was next to me. He said that shot took 10 years off his life, and I thought that was a pretty good comment.”
Jack Dunbar scored 14 points and Ziegler added 11 for Peters Township, which will make its second quarterfinal appearance all time and its first since 1997. Brendan McCullough and Mickey Vaccarello chipped in eight points apiece for the Indians. Vaccarello made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:18 left to give Peters Township a 52-51 lead before adding a fastbreak layup 14 seconds later to push the lead to three.
Herr paced Lampeter-Strasburg with 16 points and Smucker added 13.
Penn Hills (23-3) didn’t have to sweat out its win quite as much as Peters Township, but that’s not to say the Indians didn’t sweat at all against Hershey (20-8), the third-place finisher from District 3. The score was tied, 31-31, after three quarters before Penn Hills outscored Hershey, 19-11, in the final quarter.
“I knew that was going to be a possession-to-possession game on film. They’re tough. They’re physically strong. They’re well-coached. They stay in gaps and they’re feisty,” said Penn Hills coach Chris Giles, whose Indians lost to New Castle in last year’s quarterfinals.
Penn Hills began the fourth quarter on an 11-1 run and didn’t give up its first field goal of the quarter until there was only 1:30 left. L.A. Redman’s 3-pointer 21 seconds into the fourth put Penn Hills in the lead for good.
Daemar Kelly scored all 15 of his points in the second half for Penn Hills, including the Indians’ first six of the third quarter. Michai Oliver scored 11 points off the bench and Noah Barren added 10.
Joey Alander scored 18 points and Matt DeDonatis chipped in 11 for Hershey, which was 8 of 18 from 3-point range.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, Penn Hills will take on District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep, while Peters Township will play District 3 champion Exeter.
Other Class 5A boys
• Mars (17-11) fell behind by 13 points at the half and could never recover on its way to a 66-54 loss to District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (23-3) at Westminster College. Tasso Sfanos scored 26 points and Remi Black added 10 for Mars, the No. 6 team from the WPIAL. The Planets were hoping to advance to the quarterfinals for the sixth time since 2015. Amaree Pickens led Cathedral Prep with 25 points and Jake Sambuchino had 21.
• WPIAL champion Lincoln Park (27-1) led by just two points at the half before using a strong second half to defeat Highlands (22-6), 84-72, at Norwin. Lincoln Park sophomore Meleek Thomas scored a game-high 30 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and Brandin Cummings had 23. Jimmy Kunst and Bradyn Foster scored 19 points apiece for Highlands, which lost to Lincoln Park, 87-64, in the WPIAL semifinals. The Leopards advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals for the 11th time.
• It will be a star-studded quarterfinal showdown between Lincoln Park and Laurel Highlands, this after Rodney Gallagher scored 28 points, including the 2,000th of his career, to lead Laurel Highlands (24-3) to a 57-50 win against Hampton (24-4) at Norwin. The win puts Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Keondre DeShields added 16 points for the Mustangs, who outscored Hampton, 15-10, in the final quarter. Liam Mignogna paced Hampton with 15 points and Eric Weeks had 14.
• Uniontown (22-5) earned its first trip to the quarterfinals since 2002 after defeating District 3 third-place finisher Littlestown, 67-46, at Bedford. Uniontown raced to a 20-10 first-quarter lead and cruised the rest of the way. Bakari Wallace scored 18 points and Notorious Grooms had 12 for Uniontown, which stunned District 3 champion Berks Catholic in the first round. Christopher Meakin, a 6-foot-8 senior, paced Littlestown (21-7) with 17 points.
• Carlynton (19-7) punched its ticket to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1992 after upsetting District 9 champion Elk County Catholic (26-3), 49-44, at Clarion University. Carlynton, the WPIAL’s third-place team, trailed by eight points going to the fourth quarter before outscoring Elk County Catholic, 17-4, the rest of the way. Chase Jones paced Carlynton with 13 points and Jaiden McClure added 12.
• Union (24-3), the WPIAL runner-up, sprinted to a 13-point halftime lead and never looked back on its way to a 51-37 win against District 9 fourth-place team Cameron County (18-9) at Brookville. Union outscored Cameron County, 11-3, in the second quarter. Matt Stanley poured in 22 points for Union, which will play in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Lucas Stanley added 11 points for the Scotties, while Josh Smith led Cameron County with 16 points.
• WPIAL champion Imani Christian (20-6) led by 18 points at the half and cruised to an 80-48 win against District 9 runner-up Union-Rimersburg (15-13) at Kiski Area. Dame Givner scored 24 points, Virgil Hall 19 and Alier Maluk 13 for Imani Christian, which advanced to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row and next will meet District 10 champion Farrell (22-4).
Class 5A second round
Archbishop Ryan 59, West Chester East 46
Cathedral Prep 66, Mars 54
Exeter 66, Mechanicsburg 49
Imhotep Charter 68, Muhlenberg 32
Penn Hills 50, Hershey 42
Peters Township 58, Lampeter-Strasburg 56
Radnor 75, West Philadelphia 61
Class 4A second round
Allentown Central Catholic 49, Cardinal O’Hara 46
Eastern York 75, Overbrook 54
Laurel Highlands 57, Hampton 50
Lincoln Park 84, Highlands 72
Neumann-Goretti 74, Bethlehem Catholic 49
Uniontown 67, Littlestown 46
Class 1A second round
Berlin Brothersvalley 74, LaAcademia 63
Carlynton 49, Elk County Catholic 44
Chester Charter Academy 56, Northumberland Christian 38
Farrell 86, Harmony 65
Imani Christian 80, Union-Rimersburg 48
Linville Hill 50, City School 42
Philmont Christian 57, Mount Calvary 46
Union 51, Cameron County 37
Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.