'A full-blown fist fight until the end'
Laurel (70) Vs. Neshannock (77)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

Neshannock High boys basketball coach John Corey preached to his team about the importance of playing a full 32 minutes.

The Lancers took that sermon to heart and then some in the most crucial form on Friday night.

In a sold-out Neshannock gym, the Lancers needed an extra four minutes to put away crosstown rival Laurel in a 77-70 WPIAL Section 1-AA overtime victory that featured 17 lead changes, 13 after the first half, and five ties.

“Two really good teams and it was a dogfight until the end," Corey said. "I just can’t say enough about how hard we played, but it’s exactly what I expected. A full-blown fist fight until the end.”

Ethan Moose led the Lancers with 27 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and five steals. Jason Swope added 17 points and seven boards, while Jake Rylott posted 15 points and three steals and Frank Fraschetti followed with 11 points.

Mason Mraz paced Laurel with 22 points, 18 in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Scott Siddall scored 19 points and Jake Wilson contributed 13.

Neshannock (9-3, 16-5) opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run and held a 12-point advantage toward the end of the half before Laurel rallied with six straight at the end of the quarter. Swope scored nine points in the quarter, including two shots from beyond the arc to start the initial run.

“I missed my first shot and then, after that, I got the one where it felt good off the hand," Swope said. "The next one felt good as well so I was feeling it a little bit. Then Frank hit me in transition for a layup, we just got it going from there we just kept going.”

The Lancers tallied the first five points of the second half to push their lead back to double-digits. That comfortable lead would not last long, as Laurel (9-3, 17-5) scored 14 straight points to take its first lead since early in the second quarter.

“Every break in the action, it was all about fighting," Corey said. "They have three 1,000-point scorers on that team. And beyond that, they’re just a really good team. (Laurel coach Ken Locke) does a tremendous job with them and they definitely have the ability to put the ball in the hole.

"It wasn’t like we were shocked when they made runs. We really had to focus for the entire game and I’m proud of our mental effort and not letting any run diminish anything in a negative way.”

The two sides went back-and-forth for the remainder of the second half following the Spartans' run, with neither team taking more than a seven-point advantage in the final eight minutes of regulation.

Neshannock held a three-point advantage with less than 30 seconds remaining following a Swope two-point shot, yet Mraz's 3-pointer at the top of the key with 10 ticks left tied it at 63.

The Lancers missed the front end of a one-and-one to take the lead and two attempts from the Spartans didn't fall.

“He’s done that before, we’re just setting a high screen for him and he made it," Locke said. "We thought about calling a timeout, but we wanted to get him a chance in transition. They did a good job on him and it was a little short.”

Free-throw shooting ultimately pushed the Lancers to a 14-7 advantage in the extra period. They hit seven of their 10 attempts from the charity stripe in the final four minutes of play.

“Two good teams going at it and I knew it would come down to the end," Locke said. "They just made a couple more plays than we did in overtime.”

The Lancers and Spartans now find themselves in a tie for second place in the section. The two sides were in a similar predicament last season, where Neshannock was awarded the second-place spot while Laurel was forced to compete in a play-in contest.

In no surprise, each coach advocated for his team to take that second spot, which will be determined at Tuesday's tournament pairings meeting in Green Tree.

"They got the bye and we didn’t (last year), I'm hoping we get some respect in that regards," Locke said. "But we'll be ready to go and play whoever. We’re happy with our resume and we'll take who we get.”

Added Corey, "We’ll see, that’s to be determined in Green Tree. I think we deserve it, but we’ll wait and see."

(Email: AKoob@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
Laurel 16 11 16 20 7 70
Neshannock 12 21 11 19 14 77
Box Scores
Jordan Dantico 4 1-1 9
Tucker Skerbetz 1 0-0 3
Scott Siddall 8 2-2 19
Jacob Wilson 4 3-3 13
Mason Mraz 8 3-3 22
Colton Brown 0 0-0 0
Coltin Esposito 1 2-3 5
Zach Sickafuse 0 0-0 0
Totals: 26 11-12 70

Jake Rylott 5 3-5 15
Frank Fraschetti 3 2-4 11
Ethan Moose 10 7-10 27
Jason Swope 6 2-6 17
Ean Oprean 0 0-0 0
Rich Serignese 3 0-0 7
Brandon Scheidemantle 0 0-0 0
Mike Nuzzo 0 0-0 0
Mark Munnell 0 0-0 0
Totals: 27 14-25 77

LAUREL 16 11 16 20 7 — 70
NESHANNOCK 12 21 11 19 14 — 77

3-point goals — Laurel 7 (Mraz 3, Wilson 2, Skerbetz 1, Siddall 1) , Neshannock 9 (Fraschetti 3, Swope 3, Rylott 2, Serignese 1).
JV score: Laurel 54, Neshannock 45. High scorers: L — Nick Giles 19, Craig Sauers 10; N — Chris Scott 12, Dante DeLillo 10.
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