Neshannock posts thrilling win over Union
Neshannock (67) Vs. Union (65)
By DAN IRWIN
Apparently, Bobby Nittinger is not one to back away from a challenge.
The Neshannock High senior didn’t flinch when his coach threw down the gauntlet a couple of weeks ago, nor when Union invaded the Lancers’ gym last night for a matchup of WPIAL Section 1-A playoff contenders.
Nittinger wound up tossing in 37 points to lift the Lancers to a 67-65 decision. That included nine 3-point field goals, the last of which dropped through the cylinder with six seconds left to secure the win.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “It was probably about two weeks ago I called Bob over; we were practicing. He’d been averaging about 14, 15 (points) a game at that point.
“I said listen, we have a very good team, but you’ve got to step up a little bit offensively ... (Now) he’s starting to feel his role as our offensive leader.”
Last night was Nittinger’s second 30-point performance in three games, and he is averaging 24 ppg. over his last seven contests.
“Early in the season I started off pretty cold,” Nittinger admitted. “(Then) I started to warm up a little bit. The coaches believed in me, the team believed in me, they told me, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting.’
“There’s no way I could do that without John Sansone, he had some great driving kicks, and so did Joe (Fontana). Eric (Bruening) was rebounding great like always (snaring 15 stray shots); just everybody was stepping up tonight.”
After building a three-point halftime advantage, Neshannock (3-1 in the section, 11-4 overall) watched the Scotties open the third quarter with a 13-4 run to take a 40-34 lead. Union’s Anthony Thomas, who had 47 points in a one-point win over the Lancers last month, contributed six of his 15-second half points during the flourish. He finished with 21 overall.
Neshannock came roaring back, though, by scoring the final 11 points of the period, including nine on Nittinger treys. Two more Nittinger 3-pointers in the fourth quarter helped the Lancers go on to build a 61-51 lead with 2:04 remaining.
Then, though, it was Union’s turn to rally.
Damian Trott, who had 22 points overall, popped two 3-pointers of his own to bookend a 14-3 Union run. The second of Trott’s treys — and his sixth overall — came with 29 seconds left and put Union up 65-63.
Neshannock turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, then had to foul the Scotties (2-2, 11-2) three quick times in order to get them to the line with 14 seconds left. There, Thomas missed the front end of his one-and-one, and Fontana rebounded.
“It was crazy, it all happened so fast,” Nittinger said of the ensuing eight seconds. “I was just bringing it up the sideline. I thought I was stuck for a second.
“I gave a quick pump fake. I got Andre (Jones) up in the air — he was still playing great defense — and I just put it up and it happened to go.”
Union coach David Smialowski could only shake his head.
“Here’s the thing, we had it defended well,” he said. “We had two guys on Nittinger, and he hit the shot. What are you going to do?”
Union called timeout with three seconds left, but Thomas’ half-court prayer at the buzzer failed to fall, preserving the Lancers’ win.
“Tough one, that’s all I can say,” Smialowski said. “The kids played their hearts out. I can’t say enough about their grit and the determination they showed, but unfortunately we came out on the losing end.”