Neshannock looks for repeat performance against St. Joseph
Feb 23, 2010

The Neshannock High boys basketball team got a good look at St. Joseph in last year’s WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

The Lancers rolled to a 74-53 over the Spartans in that preliminary-round encounter.

St. Joseph will get another shot at Neshannock at 8 p.m. today when the teams meet at Moon High for a first-round playoff battle.

“We did play them last year and played very well against them last year,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “That can kind of hurt us from the standpoint that it can’t be in the back of our kids’ minds. St. Joseph will use that as motivation and they are a completely better team than last year.

“Last year, they were all sophomores and freshmen. This year, they have all the same guys, but are a year older and a year more mature. They are a very improved basketball team.”

St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson was surprised his ninth-seeded Spartans (14-6) drew eighth-seeded Neshannock (15-7) so early in the tournament.

“I think it’s a great matchup, in terms of eight-nine seeds, but I thought Neshannock would get a higher seed than eighth,” he said. “I thought they deserved something higher. I would have had them around a No. 6 seed. I thought they had a great year. I am surprised they wound up where they did.”

Regardless, both coaches see plenty of similarities with the two squads. Both teams have two main scorers in Neshannock’s Bobby Nittinger (20.0 points per game) and St. Joseph’s Brian Heinle (17.9), but receive offensive contributions from all players on the floor.

“One of their strengths is they are very balanced offensively. Heinle is their go-to guy, but they have a lot of guys who can shoot it and put the ball on the floor and attack,” Corey said. “They are two very similar offensive philosophies. We’re very balanced as well. Any given night, we can have a different leading scorer. They are very similar team in that regard from an offensive standpoint.”

The Spartans rely on their experience. All the players from last year return this season, in addition to starting guard Jake Ford, who transferred in from Trinity Christian.

“I think we have had five different kids score 20 or more in a game at some point this season. On any given night, you don’t know who it is going to be,” Robinson said. “From what I have seen, Neshannock looks very similar to us.

“It’s nice to go down on the offensive end and, no matter who has the ball, feel comfortable if they take the shot. It’s a nice problem them have. The players are not selfish with the basketball, so that makes for a good thing on the offensive end.”

The Lancers are eager to return to game action after closing the regular season on Feb. 15 with a 78-62 loss at Lincoln Park.

“After having some time off, we’re very excited to get back out on the court,” Corey said. “All season long, we’ve been talking about having a nice playoff run. We definitely enjoyed advancing to the PIAA tournament last year. The kids we have now were a large part of success last season. Getting back to the PIAA playoffs is a goal we have. We know what we have to do to get there. We’re very excited to get going.”
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