High-scoring duo sends Geibel past Neighborhood Academy in Class A thriller

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023 | 11:05 PM


Before Wednesday’s WPIAL Class A quarterfinal showdown between fourth-seeded Geibel and fifth-seeded Neighborhood Academy, Geibel coach Don Porter instinctively pointed out that the game would be decided in the final four minutes.

Actually, it came down to the final seconds.

After trailing for more than three quarters, the Gators put on a furious rally in the fourth quarter and pulled out an exciting 66-64 win over the Bulldogs at Peters Township High School.

“The way we came back (was impressive),” Porter said, noting that role players like Seth Dolan stepped up and contributed in key moments. Dolan hit a foul shot down the stretch to help keep the Gators in front.

While the role players made their mark, it was Geibel’s dynamic duo of Trevon White and Jaydis Kennedy who willed their team to the win.

White finished with a team-high 30 points and Kennedy wasn’t far behind with 26 points.

“Trey was a man on a mission,” Porter said. “Jaydis and Trey, those are our meat and potatoes.”

While White and Kennedy were largely responsible for Geibel’s trip into Saturday’s semifinals, it was Neighborhood Academy that controlled most of the game, starting from the opening tip.

The game couldn’t have started any better for Neighborhood Academy as John Wilkins and Courtney Wallace hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions to give Neighborhood Academy (18-5) a quick 6-0 lead. Wallace led all scorers with 31 points and Wilkins connected for 13 points.

Later in the frame, Wilkins was clutch again as he hit a hoop and the accompanying foul shot to give the Bulldogs a 13-3 advantage.

But the Gators (17-6) didn’t go away.

Geibel, behind the scoring of White and Kennedy, both 1,000-point scorers, clawed back in the game.

White got Geibel’s rally started with some tough looks for hoops in the paint before Kennedy knocked down a shot inside to pull Geibel to within 22-17. After one, Neighborhood Academy led by six, 23-17.

In the second quarter, Neighborhood Academy again managed to build a decent lead as Naziim Daniels hit a layup for a 30-17 Bulldogs edge. But White kept the Gators in the game with a huge quarter.

White hit four baskets in the second frame, including a 3-pointer that helped the Gators pull to within 31-25. At the half, the Bulldogs still led 39-32.

The teams played on even terms in the third quarter as Shamar Simpson (15 points) knocked down three shots for Neighborhood Academy while Kennedy and White continued to produce for Geibel. Heading to the fourth, Neighborhood Academy maintained its seven-point lead, 52-45.

“We talked about getting a stop on the first possession in the second half, which we did,” Porter said. “We started to climb that hill, but then we would slide back down.”

But in the fourth quarter, the Gators finally got to the top of the hill.

Geibel started to take control when Braydon Curry knocked down a jumper to pull Geibel to within 52-47. It was the first points of the game scored by a Geibel player other than White or Kennedy.

Then it was Geibel’s Jeffrey Johnson’s turn to make his presence felt as he hit a spinning layup, then drained a 3-pointer to pull the Gators to within 56-54. Johnson finished with seven points.

Moments later, a Kennedy layup tied the game at 56-56 before Johnson drove to the hoop for a deuce that gave Geibel its first lead, 58-56, with just over four minutes left.

Down the stretch, the teams traded the lead several times, with Neighborhood Academy grabbing a 64-63 lead thanks to a scoop shot by Wallace with 1:55 remaining.

Then it was White’s time to shine again as he scored in the paint to put the Gators back in front, 65-64, with 1:06 left.

In the closing minute, neither team could come up with a basket, but Kennedy managed to hit one free throw for Geibel and Wallace’s last-second desperation 3-point attempt fell short as the Gators pulled out a hard-fought victory.

“We’ll enjoy this one (for a while) but we’ve got a big one on Saturday,” Porter said. “This is the greatest time of year for these high school kids.”

With the win in the WPIAL quarters, Geibel clinches a spot in the upcoming state tournament. The gators will meet top-seeded Imani Christian in Saturday’s semifinals. Neighborhood Academy will play Rochester in a consolation game Friday.

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