Lancers falter in second half against GCC
Neshannock (37) Vs. Greensburg Central Catholic (57)
Feb 24, 2017
By Shawn Fox
New Castle News
PITTSBURGH – Everything was going according to plan for the Neshannock High boys basketball team.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Lancers were using a deliberate, mistake-free offense to stay right with top-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic.
Then, things went south for the Lancers.
The Centurions broke open a five-point game by converting a pair of Neshannock turnovers into points to start a game-closing 27-12 run in a 57-37 victory Friday night In the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs at Fox Chapel High School.
“The kids really played their rear ends off tonight and I’m proud of their effort,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “The ending of that game is completely on me for not sticking to the game plan. When you’re trying to limit possessions, when you’re trying to run that clock, and you find yourself down eight or 10, it’s easy to get away from it. I made a mistake. I don’t know that it’s a win, but it gives us a chance to win. And, that’s my job as a coach.”
The eight-seeded Lancers, who were making their fourth-straight trip to the quarterfinals, trailed just 14-13 after one quarter and took their first lead early in the second when Chris Maize knocked down a 3-pointer from the right elbow to give Neshannock (16-8) a 16-14 lead.
“Neshannock executed their game plan and kept our offensive possessions down,” GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. “That’s not the way we like to play.”
Neal McDermott answered for GCC by driving the baseline for a bucket before Dante DeLillo connected on a trey from the left wing to make it 19-16 with 5:22 remaining before the half.
The Centurions (23-0) outscored the Lancers 8-2 the rest of the way to take a 24-21 lead at the half. Neshannock’s lone points in the final five minutes of the quarter was an Ean Oprean drive at the 2:45 mark.
The teams traded baskets in the opening four minutes of the third quarter, with GCC taking a 30-25 leads on a Asa Klimchock drive.
Neshannock’s next two offensive possession ended in turnovers, and the Centurions were able to open up their largest lead in the game to that point – 33-25.
“The turnovers are what they are,” Corey said. “I allowed us to get out of what we came here to do and had our minds set on doing. When it got to eight, it was too enticing and I got caught.”
A DeLillo 3-pointer ended the Lancers’ drought, but a layup off a steal by McDermott and a trey from Ben Hertzog increased GGC’s lead to 38-28 with 29 seconds remaining in the stanza.
“We started to pull away there when Ben started to knock down a couple of shots,” Bisignani said. “The guys really stepped up.”
A pair of Oprean free throws got the deficit back to single digits, but Jack Liberatore’s putback at the buzzer made it a 10-point game heading into the final frame.
The Centurions held a 17-7 edge in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“In the playoffs, you just want to take them one at a time and move on,” Bisignani said. “It would be a lot easier if we had come in here and been up by 20 after the first quarter, but hats off to Neshannock. They are extremely well coached, have some good shooters and executed their game plan really well, especially in the first half.”
Oprean paced Neshannock with 16 points. DeLillo chipped in with nine points and Maize had eight. Danny Welker pulled down nine rebounds.
McDermott led all scorers with 25 points. Hertzog added 12 markers.
GCC will face fifth-seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Tuesday in the semifinals at a time and site to be announced. The Chargers (17-6) advanced with a 71-39 victory over fourth-seeded Chartiers-Houston (19-5) last night.
If the Centurions win in the semis, the Lancers will be the WPIAL’s fifth seed in the PIAA playoffs, which begin March 11. A GCC loss will make Neshannock the sixth seed.
“As frustrated as I feel with myself right now, I really hope I can have a chance to do these guys the right way and get us to another victory,” Corey said.