Defensive intensity pays off for Neshannock boys
Neshannock (74) Vs. St. Joseph (53)

ALLISON PARK — Bobby Nittinger claimed the Neshannock High boys basketball team was hungry.

Although he was talking about the team’s eight-day layover since its last game, the Lancers’ junior guard also could have been referring to playing defense.

Neshannock basically ate up every turnover St. Joseph committed Saturday and walked away with a 74-53 WPIAL Class A first-round victory at Hampton High School.

The Lancers (16-6), who entered the game ranked third in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, advance to the second round and will play Carmichaels on Friday night. The Mikes (19-4) beat Cornell on Saturday, 58-52, to earn a trip to the second round.

St. Joseph committed four turnovers on its first four possessions and Neshannock quickly jumped up 8-0.

“Every time we got a turnover we wanted to make them pay for it and score off of it,” Nittinger said. “We’d turn it up on defense and it seemed to demoralize them with every possession.”

The Spartans (9-14) committed six turnovers in the first quarter to trail, 19-9. They handed the ball over 21 times in the game.

“It’s been a struggle all season,” St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson said. “We’re so young.

“You could see how physical Neshannock was and we didn’t have the muscle they have and it showed. They just outmuscled us.”

The Lancers didn’t let up in the second quarter and took a 39-16 lead into the half.

“There was a lot of intensity in that first quarter,” first-year Neshannock coach John Corey said. “We wanted to come out and set the tempo and make a little run at them.”

Nittinger scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the first half.

“We were just attacking the rim,” Nittinger said. “We were quicker than them and had some bigger guys, so we just pounded it inside.”

Tony Kirkwood had 10 of his 17 points in the first half. The senior guard also had four assists.

“We had some big shots that helped us get a good start,” Kirkwood said. “We made some runs at them and that’s because we switched things up defensively with a lot of traps.”

“Bobby played very well; Tony played very well,” Corey said. “Tony’s been sick all week. For him to come out and practice every day this week and have another solid performance speaks volumes.”

But it wasn’t a two-man show by any means.

Neshannock also got a lot out of junior guard Joey Fontana, senior guard Bryce Kauffman, junior forward Eric Bruening and senior guard Chris Graziani.

Fontana scored 10 points and had seven rebounds and four blocks, while Kauffman followed with seven points. Bruening and Graziani each scored five points.

“Joey Fontana played extremely well,” Corey said. “He got us a lot of offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.

“Eric Bruening also did a good job for us rebounding the basketball and playing defense.”

The Lancers began the third quarter with a 9-1 run before St. Joseph slowly started closing the gap. The Spartans scored 16 in the third and trailed 57-32, but they outscored Neshannock in the fourth quarter 21-17.

David Marsili and Brian Heinle led St. Joseph with 11 points each. Marsili scored seven of his points in the fourth quarter.

“It’s 32 minutes of basketball the entire season, so anytime it gets sloppy like that is definitely a concern,” Corey said. “I think we fouled on every possession down the stretch and gave up offensive rebounds.

“Sometimes you go up 25 or 30 and the kids start to lose their focus.”
Game Scoreboard
Neshannock 19 20 18 17 0 74
St. Joseph 9 7 16 21 0 53
Box Scores
David Marsili 4 2-4 11
Nick Gigler 1 0-0 2
Brian Heinle 4 0-0 11
Nick Roming 2 0-0 5
Paul O’Donnell 3 1-2 7
George Will 4 3-3 12
Chris Oshnock 1 2-3 5
Nick Thimons 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 19 8-12 53.

Tony Kirkwood 7 0-0 17
Bobby Nittinger 9 3-3 22
Joey Fontana 4 2-2 10
Bryce Kauffman 3 0-0 7
Eric Bruening 2 1-3 5
Chris Graziani 1 1-4 5
Brandon Doran 1 2-6 4
Brandon Marinelli 0 2-5 2
Stephen Perrott 0 0-0 0
John Sansone 0 2-2 2
Brandon Fischer 0 0-0 0
C.J. VanEman 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 27 13-25 74.

ST. JOSEPH 9 7 16 21 — 53
NESHANNOCK 19 20 18 17 — 74

3-point goals — St. Joseph 7 (Marsili 1, Heinle 3, Roming 1, Will 1, Oshnock 1), Neshannock 5 (Kirkwood 3, Nittinger 1, Kauffman 1).

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