Neshannock topples Laurel for piece of title
Neshannock (67) Vs. Laurel (46)
Feb 12, 2011
By DAN IRWIN
Neshannock High’s top two scorers were nursing injuries to a hand and a foot.
That could have left the Lancers out on a limb.
Instead, senior Brandon Marinelli shook off a strained ligament in his hand to contribute 29 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-46 WPIAL Section 2-AA win over Laurel on the Lancers’ Senior Night.
Junior guard John Sansone wasn’t so fortunate. A nagging ankle injury kept him out of the contest, but freshman David “Ernie” Burkes came off the bench to drop in 21 markers, helping the Lancers claim a share of the section title.
The Lancers (16-5 overall) and Summit Academy each finished league play at 10-2.
“It’s a great a feeling, my senior year, on senior night, the last night on this court, to get the section championship and cut the nets down,” Marinelli beamed.
What didn’t feel so great, at least at the game’s outset, was his right hand, which was wrapped in gauze.
“I stretched out a ligament in my knuckle,” he said. “I did have it wrapped, but I ended up taking it off because it started getting annoying. I think I played better without it.”
There’s no “think” about it. After netting just three points in the opening stanza, when Laurel bolted to a 12-2 lead, the gauze-free Marinelli ripped off 13 second-quarter tallies. As a team, Neshannock outscored the Spartans 19-10 during that period to claim a 29-22 halftime lead.
Neshannock continued to build on its advantage after intermission, with Laurel never getting closer than seven points.
Freshman Josh Dando keyed the Spartans with 13 points, followed by Chad Long with 12 and Todd Fennick with 10.
“They got off to a great start,” Neshannock coach John Corey said of Laurel (2-10, 4-16). “It’s not that we started off bad offensively. We executed well, we got to the rim, but I think we missed probably four or five lay-ups our first eight possessions.
“Obviously, if we make those, it’s a different story to start the game.”
Defensively, Neshannock turned up the heat on Laurel’s ball-handlers late in the opening stanza, and quickly chipped away at the 10-point deficit.
“We have a tendency to create a lot of turnovers when we pressure people, but the other thing is, we sometimes put ourselves in foul trouble,” Corey said. “Without John (Sansone) playing tonight, we wanted to start the game out with some half-court, man-to-man defense.
“We turned up the pressure a little bit and forced some turnovers. We knew we were going to do that, but we were kind of waiting to put it on them in the second quarter. We had to go to it a little earlier than that.”
The Lancers also attacked the Spartans’ defense relentlessly throughout the night, earning a host of trips to the foul line. Both teams finished with 17 field goals, but the Spartans’ 11-of-17 effort at the charity stripe paled next to Neshannock’s 29-of-44 showing.
Burkes led that facet of the contest with an 11-of-12 performance.
The freshman, though, downplayed his 21-point night in Sansone’s absence.
“John’s one of our key players on this team, and he was supporting me the whole game through, telling me to keep my head up and keep playing hard,” Burkes said. “But everyone picked up the slack. We played as a team.
“I didn’t score those points by myself. I had my teammates around me, and everyone just picked up the slack for Johnny. I just happened to be the one who scored the points.”