Early run helps Lancers outlast Carmichaels
Neshannock (57) Vs. Carmichaels (48)
Feb 21, 2009
By JOHN D’ABRUZZO
MOON TOWNSHIP — It was only 57 seconds, but it made all the difference to the Neshannock High boys basketball team.
That short stretch of time in the first quarter produced 13 points that proved vital in the Lancers’ 57-48 WPIAL Class A quarterfinal victory over Carmichaels at Moon High School.
“That was a big run,” senior guard Bryce Kauffman said. “We were real emotional. We were getting excited and out there having fun.”
Third-seeded Neshannock (17-7) advances to the semifinals and will play second-seeded Serra Catholic on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Eagles (20-2), who are the defending WPIAL and state champs, beat Our Lady of the Sacred Heart last night, 80-59.
The Lancers, who are ranked third in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had a one-possession battle with the Mikes (19-5) through the first seven minutes of the game before Neshannock went on a 13-0 run.
“We’re used to getting big jumps on people in the first quarter, but it wasn’t happening,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “The last minute of that quarter, we definitely were able to jump on them and that took momentum into the second quarter and the rest of the game.”
Joey Fontana capped the first-quarter run with a crowd-roaring halfcourt shot he took in front of the scorers’ table that banked in at the buzzer.
“At first, I thought it was going over the backboard,” the junior guard said. “But I got lucky and banked it in.”
The shot also helped Neshannock take a 22-10 lead.
“Obviously, that shot was terrific,” Corey said. “The funny thing is the guys on the bench asked if that’s why we practice halfcourt shots. We do that for a little bit of fun at the end of practice, but I guess it did help us out there.”
Neshannock, however, struggled with its shooting early in the game. The Lancers missed second and third chances a few times during the first half.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all,” Corey said. “They have soft rims here at Moon and I think we were finding every inch of those rims.”
Still, the Lancers maintained their lead through the second quarter and owned a 33-22 advantage at the half.
“That run at the end of the first quarter really hurt us,” Carmichaels coach Don Williams said. “Then we had to battle back. The kids handled it well. They played some good defense down the stretch and made them work for everything got.”
The shooting woes continued for the Lancers and that allowed Carmichaels to cut the deficit. The Mikes used a 6-2 run midway through the third quarter and finished the period down 42-35.
Carmichaels continued to catch up in the fourth quarter when Billy Hyatt knocked down a jumper with 2:16 left to make it a 46-41 ballgame.
But after Hyatt hit that shot, Neshannock returned with a 6-0 run and held on for the win.
“We weren’t hitting too many shots in the first half,” said junior forward Eric Bruening, who capped the late run with a bucket at 1:28 left. “The end of the second half, we started hitting some shots and crashing the boards more.”
Bruening led the Lancers in rebounding with 15 to go with his eight points.
“That’s what I bring to the table,” he said. “I don’t score too much, so I have to get my rebounds and my defensive stops.”
Senior guard Tony Kirkwood, who hit 4 of 4 from the foul line down the stretch, led all scorers with 14 points. He was 7 of 7 from the free throw line.
Fontana followed with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Kauffman scored 12 points and added four assists. Senior guard/forward Bobby Nittinger chipped in with 10 points.
“We have plenty of scorers on this team and eventually they’re going to fall for us,” Corey said. “It was definitely a total team effort.”
Ian McCombs led the Mikes with 12 points and Josh Green followed with 11.
“Our defense helped us out a lot to get a lot of fast break and easy points,” Fontana said. “Things then started falling for us.”