Topping Sewickley a tall order for Neshannock
Feb 26, 2010

Bobby Nittinger enjoys a good challenge.

He thrives under the pressure.

And when the Neshannock High boys basketball team needs a big bucket, Nittinger is the one who supplies it.

Tonight, however, will be the challenge of all challenges.

The 6-foot-4 senior will be playing in the biggest game of his career against his team’s toughest opponent of the season.

The Lancers take on Sewickley Academy at 8 p.m. at Ambridge High. The Panthers (19-2) are the defending WPIAL Class A champions and boast one of the league’s top scorers in Davidson College recruit Tom Droney, who averages 22.2 points per game.

It was this past summer when Nittinger (19.8) and Droney went head-to-head in a game at Robert Morris’ summer team camp.

Sewickley Academy may have defeated Neshannock by six points, but Nittinger was able to hold his own in the individual battle.

“We kind of went back and forth that game,” Nittinger recalled. “There really wasn’t any great defense from either one of us. We both put up points.”

The Nittinger-Droney matchup is the biggest key to tonight’s WPIAL quarterfinal contest. The winner will meet either Clairton or Cornell in the semifinals at a time and site to be determined.

“You can just see he’s been very excited about this opportunity,” Neshannock coach John Corey said of Nittinger. “They’ve crossed paths a couple times. You could see the fire in Bobby’s eyes. He’s definitely ready.”

Stopping opposing team’s top scorers has been a major problem for the Lancers this season.

Neshannock (16-7) has surrendered seven 20-plus point performances and three 30-plus point outputs.

Union’s Anthony Thomas started the onslaught during the second game of the season with a career-high 47 points, while Lincoln Park’s Chaquille Pratt lit up the Lancers for 35 in the season finale.

But in between those two games, Neshannock found ways to limit the damage and won a majority of the matchups.

“For some reason, we weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” Corey said. “As the season has gone on, our guys are starting to understand it can’t be that easy for good basketball players to score on us.

“I think we’ve played better team defense and guys have really understood their responsibilities.”

Corey explained that his squad will make Droney “earn his points” by employing several defenses that includes the Lancers’ patented 1-2-2 zone press.

“I don’t know if you can stop him,” Corey said. “You just hope to contain him. Tom’s a fantastic basketball player. He’s going to get his, but we’re going to make him work hard to get his scoring opportunities.”

The Panthers’ starting five all stand 6-1 or taller with center Peter Schramm coming in at 6-7.

Nittinger is Neshannock’s tallest player, followed by 6-3 Eric Bruening, who will have the responsibility of guarding Schramm (13.7).

“If we’re matched up, Eric will be on him,” Corey said. “If we’re in a zone, there will be different responsibilities. The big thing will be if we don’t get the rebound; just don’t let Schramm get it.”

Both teams have a common opponent in Monaca. The Lancers defeated the Indians twice by a combined 71 points, while Sewickley Academy won by 30 in the first round Tuesday.

“Monaca came ready to play,” Panthers coach Win Palmer told the Beaver County Times. “We knew they were going to play for pride.”

After reviewing film of the game, Corey said, “There was a lot of stuff Monaca did that will definitely help us. Monaca did some good stuff, but they didn’t have enough talent to take Sewickley toe to toe.”
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