Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week: Week ending Feb. 15, 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020 | 11:04 PM

Neshannock finished in fourth place in Section 1-3A and seeded No. 9 for the WPIAL playoffs, which meant a first-round game against Section 4-3A co-champion and perennial power Washington.

It looked like the section champs would knock off the Lancers as the Prexies took a 26-13 lead into halftime.

“Make shots, look good. Miss shots, look bad. Miss as many as we did early on and look really bad,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “We were 4 of 28 from the field in that first half against Washington. On top of not shooting the ball well, we had 11 turnovers in 16 minutes of basketball. Five or six of those turnovers were some of the worst passes I had ever seen.”

Something changed in the second half and beyond.

Neshannock found its touch and sent the game into overtime, when the Lancers prevailed in a thriller, 55-54.

“I told them the only place we can go from here is up,” Corey said. “We came out in the second half and did just that. Shot the ball better, handled it better and made more solid decisions. Offensively, played much more like our established identity throughout this season.

“Defensively speaking, our backs were against the wall. So we had to dig down and simply play harder: more deflections, more steals and focusing on getting consecutive stops on the defensive end, which would hopefully allow our offense to catch up.”

Junior Spencer Perry led the Lancers with 17 points. Right behind him on the scoresheet was junior J.P. Mozzocio with 16 and senior Preston Turk with 14.

‘We are definitely at our best when we can get that balanced scoring in the box score,” Corey said. “Spencer, (Mozzocio), Preston and also (junior) Russell Kwiat are all averaging between 10 to 14 points per game for us. A couple of 20-plus point games from Preston and Spencer have helped throughout the season as well.”

While the week ended with a playoff memory, it began with a nonsection win over rival Laurel that felt like a playoff game.

“The atmosphere against Laurel was terrific,” Corey said. “The gymnasium was full. There were many folks on the floor standing in corners and along the baselines. It was just an awesome environment for a high school basketball game. For two teams who qualified for the playoffs, it was a great game to help us prepare for the playoffs.”

The Neshannock win along with victories for Lincoln Park, Beaver Falls and Aliquippa made it a perfect opening round for Section 1, which sends its four playoff teams to the quarterfinals.

“As far as I am concerned, we have been in what is considered the ‘Super Section’ of basketball,” Corey said. “Our section is always loaded with very talented teams and very talented players. Game planning and preparing for Lincoln Park, Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and the other teams in our section is fun and stressful all at the same time.”

The ‘fun and stress’ will continue for Neshannock on Thursday when they battle defending district and state champion Lincoln Park for a third time this season.

In the two previous matchups, the Leopards won by seven points at Lincoln Park and by 18 points at Neshannock.

“Lincoln Park is obviously a really good team with a talented roster,” Corey said. “I’ve told our guys we have proven we can play with them in spurts, but we have to find a way to sustain and maintain that for 32 minutes. From a coaching standpoint, I’m not ready to collect these uniforms so I need to develop a game plan that can keep this season alive.”

Previous Trib HSSN Teams of the Week:

Week 8 – Jeannette Jayhawks

Week 7 – Hempfield Spartans

Week 6 – Chartiers Valley Colts

Week 5 – Central Catholic Vikings

Week 4 – Blackhawk Cougars

Week 3 – Brentwood Spartans

Week 2 – Bishop Canevin Crusaders

Week 1 – South Allegheny Gladiators


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