GREENCASTLE - Greencastle-Antrim coach Gary Martin tried to use a variety of defenses to turn the Blue Devils' District 3 Class AAA first-round boys basketball game against Northeastern into a chess match.
But the game Tuesday night at G-A was not played at a snail's pace like real chess.
The Bobcats used their superior quickness to score on high percentage shots time after time and captured a 54-50 victory.
Northeastern (17-7) will play No. 1 seed Susquehanna Township (23-2) in a quarterfinal at Giant Center on Friday at 8 p.m. Greencastle finished the season with a 16-6 record.
Martin had the Blue Devils start with a 1-3-1 zone, then went to a 1-2-2 and finally tried man-to-man. Each change slowed the Bobcats down a little, but each time they adjusted.
Northeastern coach Jon Eyster said, "We played them last year and we saw them play three times this year, and they like to use that 1-3-1. We felt confident going against it because we thought we could attack it inside."
"We worked on playing against the 1-3-1," Bobcat guard Breheem Riley said, "and when we saw open gaps we attacked. We looked for one of our teammates getting open."
And they did get open. Of Northeastern's 19 field goals, 14 came on layups, drives or putbacks. Which is the main reason why it shot 55.9 percent from the field (19-for-34).
Martin said, "I thought each time we made a change it slowed them up a little, but they are quick and athletic.
"What was happening was the guy with the ball was beating his man on the drive (usually Khalid Nwandu), and he was smart enough to dish it. He knew the help was going to have to come and he was patient and passed it off. Those other kids, all they took were layups."
Nwandu did not reach his scoring average of 21, but he did have 17 to lead Northeastern and he contributed six assists.
The Bobcats scored the first seven points of the game, but Greencastle clawed back to take a 22-20 lead in the second quarter, helped by Holden Baker's seven points.
Northeastern then scored 15 consecutive points bridging the halftime break for a 35-22 lead, with Riley scoring seven of his 16 points during that span. It was 38-27 in NE's favor when the Blue Devils switched to man and started an 11-0 run the other way.
Danny Stepler scored on a runner, Joel Zola tipped in his own miss, Zach Faulkner converted a fastbreak, Zola drove for a bucket and Faulkner's three-point play made it 38-38 with 43 seconds left in the third period.
"We tried to drive more in the second half," Martin said. "We did a good job of finishing when we got to the basket."
Greencastle took a 42-40 lead on Faulkner's two free throws early in the fourth, but Khalid Nwandu hit Kobi Nwandu on two straight possessions for layups and the Bobcats never trailed again.
The Blue Devils had no turnovers in the fourth period until just over two minutes remained, but then had three crucial mistakes that allowed Northeastern to salt the game away at the free throw line.
Eyster said, "When they went to man, we made some uncharacteristic turnovers and some silly mistakes."
Brandon Puffenbarger was the only G-A player to reach double figures, with 13. Zola, who was held out of the first quarter for disciplinary reasons, scored only seven (10 below his average, on 2-for-13 shooting) and Faulkner had only seven.
"We started out trapping on defense, and once they became accustomed to that, we went to man," Eyster said. "Khalid, Kobi and Braheem are very good at guarding the ball and we didn't give Zola and Faulkner many good looks at all."
Martin is sorry his team won't get to play again.
"We were playing our best basketball at the end of the season, even if we did lose our last three," he said. "The big thing tonight was when we got the lead we just couldn't add to it."
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Derrick Hoffman 4-5 3-5 11, Khalid Nwandu 5-13 5-9 17, Braheem Riley 6-9 4-7 16, Christian Eyster 0-0 0-0 0, Kobi Nwandu 3-4 1-3 7, Damon Marshall 1-1 1-1 3, Mike Coleman 0-1 0-0 0, Donovian Maxfield 0-1 0-0 0, Robert Wade 0-0 0-0 0, Kody Reeser 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-34 14-25 54.
Zach Faulkner 2-8 3-3 7, Holden Baker 4-7 0-1 9, Austin Scott 1-6 0-0 2, Danny Stepler 4-9 1-1 9, Brandon Puffenbarger 6-9 1-2 13, Joel Zola 2-13 3-4 7, Eli Englehart 1-3 0-0 3, Matt Montedoro 0-0 0-0 0, Jeremiah Barber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-55 8-11 50.
Northeastern 13 15 12 14 - 54
Greencastle 11 11 16 12 - 50
3-point shots - NE 2-6 (Kh.Nwandu 2); GA 2-12 (Baker, Englehart). Shooting - NE 55.9%; GA 36.4%. Rebounds - GA 9 (Puffenbarger 5). Assists - GA 8 (Faulkner 3). Steals - GA 4 (Puffenbarger 2). Turnovers - NE 15; GA 14. Blocked shots - NE 2 (Kh.Nwandu, Riley); GA 5 (Scott 4).