Lancers’ comeback falls short
Apollo Ridge (66) Vs. Neshannock (64)
Feb 16, 2013
By Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NATRONA HEIGHTS — The stage was set for a storybook finish.

Instead, it ended up being just another final chapter.

Despite rallying from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit, the Neshannock High boys basketball team was eliminated in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for the third straight year Saturday, dropping a yawner-turned-thriller, 66-64, to Apollo-Ridge.

Trailing 56-41 with 1:44 to go in the third, the Lancers (17-6) reeled off a 23-10 run to pull within a single digit, 65-64, with 32 seconds remaining. But the Vikings’ Josh Reynolds sank one free throw with 9 ticks remaining to extend his team’s lead to two, and Neshannock’s Ernie Burkes missed a three-point field goal try at the buzzer to seal Apollo-Ridge’s win.

Had Burkes’ shot gone in, it would have capped a herculean, late-game effort by the junior guard. Burkes accounted for 16 of the Lancers’ last 23 points, 12 of which came via treys. He finished with six 3-pointers overall and a total of 28 points.

“You can talk about the (comeback) effort, but from a coaching standpoint, that’s the way we should be playing all the time,” Neshannock head coach John Corey said. “We let 20 minutes run off the clock before we played the way I feel we’re capable of playing.

“We put ourselves in a situation where we just didn’t do our job coming out of the gate. At halftime, they had 14 offensive rebounds. We talked the last couple of days about ... how our guards really needed to box out on the perimeter and rebound, and we simply didn’t do it.”

The Vikings not only limited Neshannock’s second shots, but its first ones as well. Apollo-Ridge’s aggressive defense coaxed the Lancers into committing 22 turnovers, including 10 in the first quarter when the Vikings (16-7) jumped out to an early 19-10 lead.

Neshannock battled back to grab a 28-27 advantage with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second period, but the Vikings outscored the Lancers 13-6 the rest of the way. Lucas Burrell, who led his team with 18 points, accounted for eight during that run.

Apollo-Ridge’s momentum continued at the start of the third period with a 16-7 run that appeared to put the Vikings in complete control with a 56-41 lead and just over 9 1/2 minutes to play.

At that point, though, Apollo-Ridge appeared to dial back its offense, even as Neshannock began its run.

“We just wanted good shots down here, we weren’t holding the ball by any means, we wanted layups only,” Apollo-Ridge head coach Matt Gourley said. “It looked like we were holding it, but we wanted to attack the basket. I think some of the kids, though, were a little afraid to go in there and maybe get a charge or whatever.”

After Reynolds’ final free throw with nine seconds remaining, the Vikings fouled Burkes with 2.9 showing on the clock. With the Lancers not yet in the bonus, they were forced to take the ball out of bounds in front of their own bench. Burkes popped open near the top of the key and took the three-point shot, but it bounced off the glass to end the game.

“They only had five fouls, so I assumed they were going to foul again, because they had one to give,” Corey said. “They didn’t, we got a clean look, the guys executed that play to perfection — we got the ball in the hands of the guy we wanted to get it to, it just didn’t go in.

“But bottom line, we ended the game with 22 turnovers, we gave up 18 offensive rebounds — when you do that, you’re not winning. You look at the number of extra possessions we gave them with the 18 rebounds and 22 turnovers, and I don’t know who you’re going to beat with those two areas.
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Apollo Ridge 23 17 18 8 0 66
Neshannock 20 14 13 17 0 64
Box Scores
Tre Tipton 5 2-4 12
Lucas Burrell 7 0-0 18
Josh Reynolds 4 2-3 10
Evan Davis 0 3-4 3
Alex Smith 5 0-0 11
Connor Billingsley 6 0-0 12
Cody Billingsley 0 0-0 0
Dominic Schrecongost 0 0-0 0
Mitchell Johnston 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 27 7-11 66.

Ernie Burkes 9 4-4 28
Matt McKinney 5 0-0 12
Ethan Moose 3 0-0 7
Matt Seltzer 3 2-4 8
Tyler Haswell 4 1-1 9
Jim Medure 0 0-0 0
Frank Fraschetti 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 24 7-9 64.

APOLLO-RIDGE 23 17 18 9 – 66
NESHANNOCK 20 14 13 17 – 64
3-pt. field goals — Apollo-Ridge 5 (Burrell 4, Smith 1); Neshannock 9 (Burkes 6, McKinney 2, Moose 1)
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