No. 3 Neshannock holds off No. 12 Derry in WPIAL quarters

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Thursday, February 22, 2024 | 10:47 PM


For more than three quarters of Thursday’s WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal, Derry’s defense kept Neshannock sophomore David Kwiat in check.

But Kwiat, who averages 16 points and is the Lancers’ leading scorer, found his touch.

He drained three consecutive 3-pointers, scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and helped No. 3 Neshannock (20-3) survive the upset-minded Trojans, 64-57, at North Hills Middle School.

No. 12 Derry was forced to foul in the 20 seconds after missing a tying layup with 25.6 seconds left.

Neshannock will face Deer Lakes in the semifinals, and Derry plays Ellwood City in the consolation play-in games.

Derry (14-7) led early in the fourth quarter 48-44 on a 3-pointer by Brayden Robinson.

That’s when Neshannock went on a 7-0 run to grab a 51-48 lead. Kwiat had a bucket and a 3-pointer during that run.

Nate Papuga hit two free throws to trim the lead to 51-50 with 3:05 left, but Kwiat nailed two more 3-pointers to push the lead to 57-50 with 2:18 remaining.

Freshman Stanley Rajkovich hit back-to-back shots to cut the lead to 57-54. Talan Anderton hit a layup for Neshannock, and John Wasnick, who finished with 19 points, nailed his fifth 3-pointer of the game to trim the lead to 59-57 with 1:03 left.

Neshannock turned the ball over, but Derry’s Brady Angus couldn’t get his shot to go with 25.6 seconds left.

“I think our experience played a key role for us,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “A lot of these guys played last year in the playoffs.

“We were hoping David would start getting hot. He got hot at the right time.”

Anderton, who had three 3-pointers, led Neshannock with 21 points. Anthony Bonner had 10.

“Derry is a very good basketball team,” Corey said. “We knew 5 (Wasnick) and 23 (Papuga) were their best shooters. We didn’t do a good enough job on Wasnick.”

Derry, thanks to a Wasnick 3-pointer at the buzzer, led 17-14 after a quarter. Neshannock was able to surge out to a 28-24 lead at halftime and extended its lead to 42-34 late in the third quarter before Derry went on an 11-0 run to take the lead early in the fourth quarter 45-42.

“I thought we were in good shape when we took the lead,” Derry coach Tom Esposito said. “I felt we had momentum, but Kwiat got hot.

“We had our opportunities, but we didn’t make shots and turned the ball over a couple key times. We didn’t rebound well enough, and they were getting the bounces.”

Rajkovich scored 14 points for the Trojans, and Papuga had 12.

“I felt we played well enough,” Esposito said. “They were more physical. But we have at least two more games to qualify for the state tournament. That’s the goal now.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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