BETHLEHEM — Whenever Abington Heights needed a basket down the stretch, Jackson Danzig delivered.
The junior scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the two overtime periods to help the Comets defeat Chester, 65-61, in double overtime, in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 5A boys basketball playoffs Sunday afternoon at Liberty High School and advance to the state semifinals for the first time in the school’s history.
“We just needed to stay composed and run our offenses,” Danzig said. “We needed to work hard and it paid off.”
Abington Heights (25-3), the District 2 champion, will play District 12 champion Archbishop Wood (26-3) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Freedom High School in Bethlehem for a spot in the championship game.
The Comets had a seemingly comfortable 29-18 halftime lead, but Chester (22-7) wouldn’t go down without a fight.
The Clippers outscored Abington Heights, 10-6, in the third quarter, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.
Chester guard Ahrod Carter, who scored a team-high 23 points, cut the Clippers deficit to five points after making his fourth of six 3-pointers in the game with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter.
Jordan Camper followed with a free throw and Jamar Sudan, who scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, scored back-to-back baskets to tie the game with 1:48 remaining in the fourth.
Camper scored off an offensive rebound to give Chester its first lead of the game, 43-41, with 37 seconds left in regulation, but Danzig drove by his defender and converted a reverse layup to send the game into overtime.
Michael Smith knocked down two 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the first overtime to give the Clippers a four-point lead and Sudan sank one of two free throws to put Chester up five with 1:04 left. Danzig answered with a 3-pointer and scored off an assist from center Seth Maxwell after George Tinsley snagged a missed free throw, to set up a second four-minute overtime period.
Danzig scored 10 points and assisted on a basket by Tinsley in the second overtime.
“He wanted the ball,” Abington Heights head coach Ken Bianchi said of Danzig. “We were going to put him on the foul line (on offense), but he thought he’d do a better job getting the ball outside. We made that switch and he made us look good.”
Maxwell, a 7-foot-senior, who finished with 18 points, eight blocks and seven rebounds, scored six in the first quarter to help Abington Heights build a 10-6 lead.
“We told him for us to have a chance, you have to do something under the basket (offensively),” Bianchi said. “We couldn’t have won without his effort.”
Tinsley made 4 of 5 shots in the second quarter when he scored nine of his 11 points. The sophomore forward also contributed 18 rebounds and three assists.
“This was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “The heart on this team is outstanding. No one ever quits and we’re very energetic.
“It was really tough. They have some really high jumpers and they’re quick. You just have to be able to box them out. I was able to do that and grab a couple scrappy boards, too.”
Trey Koehler contributed six points, five assists and three steals for Abington Heights while Tommy Rothenberger added five assists. The five Abington Heights starters played all 40 minutes, two days after logging the majority of the minutes during a double overtime win over Martin Luther King High School.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-585-1600 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.