Northeastern juniors Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto both possess a very particular set of skills: long distance sharpshooting combined with the ability to leap out of the gym.
The two Bobcats put those skills on display on Saturday evening in the championship of the Northeastern Tip-Off Tournament during a 66-49 win in the championship game against Eastern York. The two combined for 41 points.
"I think this weekend prepares us for what is ahead," Mulbah said. "This is our first time we are all playing together. We lost a lot of seniors, so we have to figure things out."
Northern won the consolation game of the tournament with a 50-47 win vs. Delone Catholic.
The 5-foot-9 Mulbah scored a game-high 22 points, thanks in part to five 3-point goals and a soaring fourth-quarter dunk. The 6-2 Rizzuto contributed 19 points behind two 3-pointers and a dunk.
"They both work very hard at their games," said Northeastern coach Jon Eyster. "Do they have some gifts? Yes, they do. But you are not going to find too many people who have put in the hours those two have. No way. It's a combination of gifts and hard work."
Mulbah made his presence felt at the tail end of the opening quarter and beginning of the second quarter. He hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter and move Northeastern up by six points. Mulbah then came downcourt on the Bobcats' opening possession of the second quarter and nailed another trey from the same area to put Northeastern up by nine.
Rizzuto then erupted for 13 of the ensuing 15 points for the Bobcats as they took a 36-25 halftime lead on Eastern York.
"I thought Eastern York did a good job of limiting Rizzuto's looks," Eyster said. "He didn't get many easy ones. He had to earn them. Fred can just really create his shots whenever he wants to. He's tough to match up with. Antonio is capable of going with the ball in his hands, but he is less of a creator and more of a knock-down, dead-eye shooter. Eastern York did a good job of face guarding and shadowing (Rizzuto)."
Eastern York kept grinding and cut the lead to six points after a 3-point goal by Jared Achterberg with 4:48 left in the third quarter, but Mulbah answered with two more 3s as Northeastern took an eight-point lead into the final eight minutes.
"For as bad as I thought we played, it was still within reach at the end of the third quarter," said Eastern York coach Jon Reichard. "Everything we worked on in the shoot around (Saturday) morning, we did not execute (Saturday evening). But it's one game. We have like 20 to go."
Mulbah's skywalking dunk highlighted an eight-point run by Northeastern to begin the fourth quarter and put the game away. The Golden Knights managed just four fourth-quarter points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field.
"There are so many inexperienced guys we are trying to fit in," said Eyster, who returns only three players with varsity experience. "You got to be happy. (Saturday) was a tough battle. Some guys learned a few things about themselves, so it's good. We obviously have some kids with more experience who have to lead us and they did."
Mulbah was named the MVP of the tournament while Rizzuto and Austin Greene of Northeastern earned All-Tournament Team selections. They were joined on the team by Eastern York's Evan Springer and Achterberg.
"I was kind of hard on the team after the game," Reichard said. "We have three seniors who have been through some pretty big games, you would think we would have responded, but I felt like we didn't get the leadership we needed."