Vincentian Academy boys avenge loss to Nazareth Prep, advance to Class A title game

Monday, February 24, 2020 | 10:00 PM

The top-seeded Vincentian Academy Royals had revenge on their minds.

The Royals used multiple defenses and a hot start offensively to dominate fifth-seeded Nazareth Prep early on the way to a 65-54 semifinal victory at North Allegheny High School.

It was Vincentian Academy’s third win over the Saints since losing to Nazareth Prep, 69-62, in the WPIAL championship game at the Petersen Events Center last year.

Vincentian Academy (20-4) scored the first 12 points of the game and led 19-4 at the four-minute mark of the first quarter before finishing the quarter with a 23-12 advantage. Royals’ senior Ethan Embleton scored 10 of his game-high total 18 points in the pivotal first quarter, including two 3-pointers. Embleton also pulled down 11 rebounds in the game.

Royals coach Tim Tyree appreciated his team’s hot start.

“It was a great atmosphere in here tonight and I think that our guys came out and matched the intensity that our fans provided,” he said.

The Royals coaxed several turnovers in that early run by flashing different defenses at the Saints. Vincentian Academy started the game with full-court pressure, which slowed down Nazareth Prep’s offensive output. But the Royals also played a complement of man-to-man, as well as some 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone which, at times, seemed to confuse Nazareth Prep.

“When you play another team so many times in two years, like we have Nazareth Prep, you get to know each other’s tendencies and personnel,” Tyree said. “So, to show them so many different defenses, I think that it kept them guessing a little bit.”

Nazareth Prep (17-8) trailed 42-20 at halftime but came out with some life in the second half and cut into the large deficit.

Nehemiah Brazil and Marcus Johnson hit 3-pointers in the first minute of the third quarter to quickly cut the lead to 16. Nazareth Prep held the Royals without a field goal for over seven minutes between the third and fourth quarters, but the Saints couldn’t get the big scoring run they needed to really get back into the game.

On two occasions early in the fourth quarter, Nazareth Prep cut the Royals’ lead down to 11, but they couldn’t get any closer than that.

“(The strong Royal start) was really hard to overcome,” Saints coach Nehemiah Brazil said.

“Against a team like that, you can’t start that way. They’re a really good team, very well coached. I think that they were really motivated to play well against us tonight being that we beat them in the championship game last year. I’m not sure if we put too much pressure on ourselves, but we seemed a little shell-shocked early on. We played much better in the second half, but by then, it was too late.”

Matt McDonough (14 points) and Angelo Reeves (11 points, 12 rebounds) also scored in double digits for Vincentian Academy, which knocked down a total of seven 3-pointers.

Nazareth Prep was led by Nehemiah Brazil with 17 points while Will Taylor chipped in with 16 points.

For the third straight year, Vincentian Academy will face another Section 1 foe in the WPIAL championship game. They defeated Union in 2018. The Royals will attempt to win their fourth WPIAL title when they face Cornell on Thursday night. Vincentian Academy and Cornell split their two regular season matchups.

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