Lancers rally past Wildcats
Neshannock (64) Vs. Shenango (59)
By JOE SAGER
That’s the lesson the Neshannock High boys basketball team learned last night.
The Lancers struggled for the majority of their WPIAL Section 2-AA home game against Shenango. But, they turned it on in the game’s final minutes to secure a 64-59 triumph.
The Wildcats led for most of the second half before Neshannock closed the game with a 19-6 run in the final 5:25 to erase a 53-45 deficit and secure the victory.
“I thought we persevered down the stretch,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “To be able to come back and pull that victory out is definitely a tribute to how hard we worked in those last five minutes. But, I wasn’t real happy with the first 27 minutes. I thought, defensively, we were not very sharp. I thought Shenango got to the rim with ease and those are some things we have to fix.”
The Lancers (8-2 section, 14-5 overall) clamped down defensively in that stretch, especially in the final 2:45. Neshannock kept Shenango (4-7, 11-9) scoreless for 2:44 of that span before Jordan O’Hara hit a desperation 3-pointer in the last second.
“The gameplan was to trap them and pressure them a bit earlier, but we committed 13 or 14 fouls in the first half,” Corey said. “When we were in that foul trouble, that took full-court pressing and stuff like that out of the gameplan. We had to change a little. That last two or three minutes, I thought we did a good job of trapping the basketball and getting some easy baskets.”
This defeat was devastating for the ’Cats, who were eliminated from WPIAL playoff contention.
“You know coming up here it’s going to be a great atmosphere because it’s a good rivalry,” Shenango Bob McQuiston said. “I am proud of the effort. My guys didn’t leave anything on the floor. It’s disappointing when you play that hard and don’t come out with the win. My hat’s off to Neshannock because they answered our runs.”
The ’Cats led, 11-8, after the first and 30-28 at halftime. They increased their advantage to 46-40 after three quarters. The lead grew to eight points (53-45), but Shenango’s offense sputtered against Neshannock’s pressure.
“We missed some layups down the stretch and that’s going to happen sometimes,” McQuiston said. “They made their foul shots down the stretch and they are a good shooting team, so you expect that. This loss is just disappointing for the kids.”
The victory was a must-have for the Lancers as they continue their quest for a section championship. They are a half game behind Summit Academy (9-2, 12-6), which has one section game left Tuesday at Ellwood City. Neshannock has section games against Mohawk (Tuesday) and Laurel (Friday) left on its schedule.
“We knew Shenango was going to fight because they wanted to get in the playoffs. Obviously, we’re fighting for a section championship. We can’t afford to have a night off. These next couple games, we have to play better defensively,” Corey said. “Mohawk played us hard and physical the first time. We have our hands full on Tuesday.”
Brandon Marinelli paced the Lancers with a game-high 18 points. John Sansone added 14 points, while Nick Graziani had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Van Eman had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Brock Blakley and Mike Linz both had 13 points for Shenango.