Neshannock boys take down St. Joseph
Neshannock (77) Vs. St. Joseph (61)
Feb 24, 2010
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
MOON TOWNSHIP — The Neshannock High boys basketball team sought a strong start last night.
Joey Fontana got the Lancers out quickly and they made it stand en route to a 77-61 verdict over St. Joseph in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs at Moon High School.
Fontana netted 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter as Neshannock opened an 8-0 lead and it never trailed. He was averaging 11.8 points a game coming in.
“We came out and shot well early,” Lancers coach John Corey said. “Joey is athletic and he played wonderfully. He’s that ‘X’ factor and he can take it to the rim.”
Neshannock (16-7) advances to play top-seeded Sewickley Academy (19-2) in the quarterfinals on Friday at a time and site to be determined. The Panthers, the defending WPIAL Class A champion, are led by Davidson recruit Tom Droney. Droney, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, averages 22 points a game.
Sewickley Academy moved on with a 65-35 victory over Monaca last night.
“Sewickley Academy is a very good team,” Corey said. “They play well together as a team.
“It will be a challenge for us, but we’ve played well all year when presented with a challenge.”
Neshannock’s Bobby Nittinger, a senior guard, surpassed the 1,000-point plateau on a three-point play with 15.2 seconds left. His basket gave him exactly 1,000 points and the foul shot put him at 1,001, the total he’ll take into the Sewickley Academy matchup.
“I’m really happy for Bobby; you never want to be that close and have that hanging over your head,” Corey said. “He’s a humble kid and he never cared about the 1,000 points; he wants to win and he’s so unselfish.”
Said Nittinger, “It’s crazy. I didn’t know it was possible. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches. They made it possible.”
Nittinger, averaging 20 points a game coming in, was held to 16 markers.
“They were denying me the ball and others were stepping up for us and hitting shots,” Nittinger said.
The Spartans (14-7) didn’t go away despite trailing by eight early. They cut the deficit to 16-12 with 1:29 to go in the opening quarter before settling for a 20-14 deficit after one period.
Rebounding kept St. Joseph in the game in the opening half, securing 12 boards on the offensive end.
“When you get a good start like Neshannock did, you can relax and play your game,” Spartans coach Kelly Robinson said. “Our shots weren’t falling and they took advantage of it.”
Neshannock took charge in the second quarter, opening a pair of 14-point advantages, eventually holding a 41-29 halftime buffer.
Despite the lead, Corey knew it could have been larger if his team hit the defensive glass.
“We had words about that at halftime,” Corey said of St. Joseph’s rebounding. “We play with pride and that’s something we needed to address.”
And the Lancers did so in a big way. St. Joseph tallied just two offensive rebounds in the second half.
“We just couldn’t find a way to come up with the loose balls after halftime,” Robinson said. “I give Neshannock credit, they really hit the glass hard.”
St. Joseph didn’t quit though in the second half. Neshannock appeared as though it was poised for a runaway, up 47-31 with 5:51 left in the third period. However, the Spartans went on a 15-3 run to close to 50-46 with 1:18 remaining in the third quarter.
“We never got the separation that we should have,” Corey said. “St. Joseph never seemed to be out of it and they always seemed to be keeping it in single digits.
“I kept telling the guys you can’t pull away if you’re trading baskets with them.”
St. Joseph used a 1-3-1 defense to narrow the gap, but had to switch back to man because of fatigue. John Sansone, who netted a team-best 19 points for the Lancers, scored the team’s final five points of the third period for a 55-46 margin heading to the fourth. Sansone also handed out a game-high 10 assists.
Brandon Marinelli added four straight free throws to open the fourth and Neshannock had a commanding 59-46 lead with 6:26 to play.
“We worked so hard to get it down to four points, and then they blow it back open just like that,” Robinson said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump and then we had to switch and we never did recover from that.”
The Spartans got no closer than 10, at 71-61, with 1:07 remaining.
Marinelli, who netted 18 points, registered 13 of them in the final frame. He was 7 of 7 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 8 of 9 for the contest.
“I just wanted to go out and be aggressive,” Marinelli said. “There were open lanes so I took it to the hole in the fourth quarter.”
David Marsili led all scorers with 26 points for St. Joseph and Brian Heinle chipped in with 19. Marsili tossed in 11 of his markers in the fourth quarter.