Lancers fend off Wildcats in overtime
Neshannock (55) Vs. Shenango (50)
By Clayton Sauertieg
New Castle News
The Neshannock and Shenango high school boys basketball teams left everything on the floor Friday night.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Lancers prevailed, 55-50, in overtime against a Wildcats team that was more than up for the challenge in front a raucous home crowd in a WPIAL Section 3-2A matchup.
"It's what we expected and it's what I preached since Tuesday," Neshannock coach John Corey said. "I kept preaching that this was going to be a battle. Shenango has a nice group and they played really, really hard and really well tonight."
Both teams struggled to score from the onset, as the Lancers (5-3 section, 10-4 overall) led just 9-7 after the first quarter. Space in the paint was hard to come by for either team, especially the Wildcats (1-7, 3-12) who had to work around 6-foot-5 Neshannock forward Ty Sear on the offensive end. Sear posted five blocks in the contest and was able to change a number of shots by Shenango players.
"I thought Ty played really well tonight," Corey said. "Especially in the first half I thought he was real force in the paint for us. Having him in there definitely helps us out."
The Lancers were able to give themselves a little bit of breathing room in the second, but Shenango wouldn't go away and trailed by only six at the half, 20-14.
The Wildcats began to chip away at the lead in the third, paced by junior guard Brandon Bennett, who led all scorers on the night with 25 points.
"He's a scorer for us, Brandon always steps up," Shenango coach Bob McQuiston said. "He shoots the ball really well for us. He started cold, but it's only a matter of time before he gets going and once he hits a couple of shots you can see him start to get going."
Bennett helped his team close to within four points after three periods as the Wildcats trailed 33-29.
The fourth quarter, similar to the three that preceded it, was a slugfest.
The Lancers were able to maintain their four-point cushion for most of the quarter. Danny Welker, who finished the contest with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, stepped to the line for Neshannock with 1:12 remaining and a chance to stretch the lead to the six. Welker was unable to convert, however, and Bennett was immediately fouled and went to the line for two shots of his own.
Bennett hit both shots to cut the lead to 41-39 with just over a minute left in regulation. Again Neshannock stepped to the foul line with 55 seconds and again it came up empty. This time it was Ean Oprean, who led the Lancers with 18 points on the night. Following the second miss, Welker pulled down a big offensive rebound and drew two more foul shots, both of which came up empty.
On the other end of floor, junior Ty Smith stepped up and knocked down two huge free throws for the Wildcats with just over 30 second remaining in regulation to knot the score at 41. After an Oprean turnover and a missed halfcourt heave from Shenango's Colin McQuiston, the two teams headed to overtime.
Scoring was fast and furious in the extra session and the teams were deadlocked at 48-48 with with 1:48 remaining after Welker went 1 of 2 from the line. That was when the Lancers took over.
A blocked shot by Sear sprung a Neshannock fast break that was capped by a Dante DeLillo 3-pointer to give his team a 51-48 lead. A Smith layup for Shenango cut the lead 51-50, but the Lancers buckled down. With the clock running down, the Wildcats were forced to foul and this time Neshannock made the shots count. Oprean knocked down both of his foul shots to extend the lead to 53-50. After forcing a jump ball and regaining possession, Welker was fouled and hit both of his free throws to push the lead to 55-50, which proved to be the final score.
"I didn't love our performance, to be honest," Corey said. "I thought we would handle ourselves better in this environment, but we got a good section win and sometimes you have to win ugly."
The Lancers' win keeps them just two game back of Sewickley Academy as they prepare to host the Panthers on Tuesday.
Shenango, meanwhile, will look to get back on track on Tuesday as it heads to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
"We just have to keep playing hard and correct the mistakes that we're making," McQuiston said. "We're practicing hard and they're getting better, we just have to learn how to win."