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July 17, 2012

Exciting semifinal leads to championship game

Wednesday night's championship game in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Summer Pro-Am will have to put on an impressive display of hoops and drama if it wants to match the semifinals, which culminated with a wild game between Pitt stars of the future and the past.

No. 1 GNC 98, No. 5 UPMC 90

After sitting out Monday night with a bye, No. 1 seed GNC took the court for the first semifinal game Tuesday night. The only problem was, No. 5 seed UPMC, which knocked off No. 4 seed Oliverios Peppers Monday night, barely had enough players to field a starting five at the scheduled tip time of 7:15.

The two primary absences for UPMC were Pitt players Cameron Wright and Malcolm Gilbert, so GNC had to donate a few players to get the game started. One of the "donations" was 6'9" Youngstown State junior forward Josh Chojnacki, who finished the summer league regular season averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Apparently a change of uniform was just what Chojnacki ordered, as he kept UPMC in the game for the first half, hitting four three-pointers - after going 0-for-3 in the regular season - and scoring 20 points before halftime. Chojnacki's outburst helped UPMC keep pace with an explosive GNC team, and while GNC scored 54 points in the first half, the 20-point performance from Chojnacki had UPMC with 53 at the break.

Halftime changed things, though, as Wright and Gilbert arrived to join their teammates on the UPMC team, sending Chojnacki back to GNC for the second half. Wright literally woke up and scored 14 points in the second half, while Chojnacki hit just one basket after halftime, but neither of those players mattered much in the shadow of former Edinboro star Jakim Donaldson.

Donaldson nearly averaged a double-double this summer - 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game - and he put in a huge performance Tuesday night, scoring 29 and grabbing 19 boards to lead GNC to the victory. Donaldson's dominance inside combined with some explosive athleticism from West Virginia's Keaton Miles (20 points, 5 rebounds) and Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry (17 points) to send GNC into the championship game.

No. 2 PGT Trucking 80, No. 3 South Hills Audi 79

With all due respect to GNC, the two best teams in the summer league matched up for the nightcap and produced arguably the best game of the 2012 season. With breakaways, long-range shots, one-on-ones, three goaltending calls in the span of about two minutes in the second half, and double-technical fouls (quite possibly the first in summer league history), Pitt stars of the past, present and future squared off in a game for the ages.

PGT's roster featured Pitt players Lamar Patterson, Steven Adams, and James Robinson, while SHA came in with former Panthers Levance Fields, Chevon Troutman, Gilbert Brown, Keith Benjamin, and John DeGroat.

SHA suffered a blow early in the game when Brown headed for the sidelines with an injury, but his teammates picked up the slack, drawing the lead to 10 midway through the half and looking like the night would belong to the veterans.

But Patterson wasn't interested in letting that happen. After SHA took a 21-11 lead with just under 12 minutes left in the half, the redshirt junior took over, scoring another 18 points before halftime to put PGT up 38-36 at the break.

The Pitt vets weren't going away, though, as Fields led his squad to a five-point lead after halftime. Patterson and Robert Morris standouts Lucky Jones and Stephen Hawkins kept the pressure, but PGT's 55-49 lead with 14 minutes left was as wide a gap as that team would hold. As the clock ticked under nine minutes, former Pitt walk-on Nick Rivers tied the game at 64; a minute later, Benjamin hit a layup between two three-pointers from former Slippery Rock star Myron Brown to give SHA a 72-69 lead.

Patterson and Jones kept coming, though, combining for eight points to set the score at 73-77 with three minutes left. After DeGroat scored to cut the lead to two points, PGT worked to drain the clock as much as possible. Robinson took the post-basket inbounds pass with 1:30 on the clock, brought the ball up-court, and passed off to Patterson, who put the brakes on. After 25 seconds had passed, Patterson drove, drew a foul and drained the layup, giving PGT an almost perfect scenario. And when Patterson hit the "and-one" shot to extend the lead to 80-75, it looked like the game was over.

But the Pitt vets weren't done yet. Former Pitt walk-on Griffen Able hit a huge put-back to draw within three, and then SHA forced a steal after PGT's inbounds pass. SHA missed three three-pointers on the ensuing possession but managed to steal the ball back from Robinson and draw a foul from Patterson. Unfortunately for SHA, Troutman missed both free throws, and while Fields would hit two from the line seconds later and SHA would get one more good opportunity, the veteran squad couldn't overtake its younger opponents.

Patterson was the star of the game, scoring 35 points to set a new league high for the summer. He shot 14-of-26 from the floor and hit 6-of-10 from beyond the arc while also grabbing 12 rebounds. Robinson scored 12 points and recorded seven rebounds and five assists. Adams was quiet against Troutman, recording just seven points and seven rebounds.

For SHA, Troutman put up another double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, while Fields scored 18 and dished out five assists.

Championship game
No. 1 GNC vs. No. 2 PGT Trucking - Wednesday 7:30 pm, Greentree Sportsplex

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