North Allegheny shuts down Seneca Valley in Section 1-6A victory

Friday, January 11, 2019 | 11:09 PM

It’s never easy following up one of the top girls teams in the WPIAL but the North Allegheny boys basketball had no choice.

The Tigers took the prime-time slot following the top-ranked girls blowout win over Butler Friday night at North Allegheny High School and didn’t disappoint.

Led by a staunch defense, clutch free-throw shooting and Mike Egnaczyk’s team-high 15 points, the North Allegheny boys basketball team rolled past Section 1-6A rival Seneca Valley, 65-47, in a matchup that shuffled the section standings.

“It was a slow start, but our defense was outstanding,” North Allegheny coach Keith Noftz said. “We knew it was going to be a tough one. (Trost) has got them playing unbelievably hard. We’re happy to win this one.”

The win moves North Allegheny (7-4, 2-2) into a tie for third place in the section standings with Seneca Valley (7-4, 2-2) and also put an end to the Raiders’ four-game win streak. The Tigers have won four of their last five games heading into the meat of the section schedule.

“We struggled offensively, and give credit to them, they guarded great and did a good job,” Seneca Valley coach Kevin Trost said. “We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Putting the ball in the basket was a problem for both team’s coming out of the gate as North Allegheny, 7-5, after one quarter.

Trey Berringer tied the game at 7-7 to start the second quarter before Mike Iuzzolino connected on a 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 19 seconds on the clock to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead. The Raiders played from behind the rest of the way. Iuzzolino came back down the floor and drilled another 3-pointer and Nico Erimias added a basket to bring the score to 15-9 with just over 5 minutes to play in the half. Ermias finished the night with 12 points and Iuzzolino 11.

Mason Bush scored on a putback off the glass, was fouled and completed the three-point play to draw the score to 23-20 at the half. Bush finished with a game-high 20 points and Berringer had 14.

“I felt like we could guard them in the half court, and I felt like we guard them a little bit better than we did,” Trost said.

In an effort to pull down more rebounds, Seneca Valley came out in the second half and switched to a 2-3 defense. The Tigers dominated the boards all night and were led by sophomore Khalil Dinkins’ eight rebounds. North Allegheny out rebounded the Raiders 33-23 on the night.

“We always feel that if you play that good of defense, that hard, that you’re going to be in every game,” Noftz said.

Iuzzolino knocked down another 3-pointer at the start of the second half to give the Tigers a 26-20 lead. Waker Davidson added another 3 to extend the Tigers’ lead to 31-26.

Bush added a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to close in on the Tigers’ lead at 38-33 but Egnaczyk responded with a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to give North Allegheny a 43-33 lead going into the final quarter.

“I feel like if we could have just stayed close enough to be able play them in the half court, I think we could have been able to grind it out in the fourth quarter,” Trost said.

The fourth quarter was nearly all foul shots for the Tigers. North Allegheny scored 22 points in the final quarter and all but two of those points came from the foul line. The Tigers shot 81 percent from the line to put the game away.

“We did make 25 of 31 free throws which was the difference,” Noftz said.

With the way the Raiders were playing going into the game and with another trip through the section play in the coming weeks, Noftz and his Tigers will take the win.

“Offense is going to come and go and unfortunately it really wasn’t there tonight, but we still ended up winning by 18,” Noftz said. “This was a big win and this was going to go a long way into developing what happens in the playoffs.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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