Teams won memorable semifinal games, set to meet for championship. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
Antonio Rizzuto listened to his coaches.
Face-guarded and frustrated by the defense of York Catholic’s D’Andre Davis all game, nothing came easy. The Northeastern junior had to be resilient.
“My coach told me if we’re going to win, I have to rebound,” Rizzuto said.
So when Northeastern held a 3-point advantage with about 90 seconds to play, and the Bobcats missed a 3-pointer from the wing, it should surprise no one that Rizzuto materialized to clean up. He charged the baseline, grabbed the rebound and converted the layup.
“I had to do that,” Rizzuto said.
The Bobcats, lauded as the best team in the league in the preseason, advanced to the YAIAA title game. But it didn’t look easy, with Northeastern holding off a relentless York Catholic squad, 69-66, in the YAIAA boys’ basketball tournament semifinal.
Northeastern will face Central York in the title game at 7 p.m. Friday at York College.
“It’s been a long time coming for me and all the seniors and juniors,” Northeastern senior Austin Green said. “Whenever we got to this game before we always lost.”
It marks the first league title appearance for Northeastern since 2003. The program has never won the YAIAA title.
Even for a team that has been playing at a high level all year — this was something special for Northeastern.
“We felt pressure, but it was pressure we put on ourselves,” Green said. “The atmosphere here was crazy. I’ve never played in front of so many people.”
With a standing-room only crowd rocking Red Lion's Fitzkee Athletic Center, York Catholic made it tough on Northeastern. Davis slashed through the lane for a game-high 23 points, and Melik Martin made his presence felt down low with 20 points.
“They played to our speed, and that surprised us, they could play in Division I and beat anyone,” Green said.
But Northeastern had a little bit more.
Brandon Coleman scored a team-high 17 points, while Green had 15, Rizzuto had 14 and Fred Mulbah scored 13.
York Catholic leaves the tournament disappointed, but knowing they at least proved a Division III team belonged in this game.
“Coming into this game, being underrated and almost expected to lose, we had to come out and fight,” York Catholic’s Davis said.
“We won a lot of people over, we shocked a lot of people.”
It was a bittersweet night for the Irish.
“My last two years in (the YAIAA tournament) we’ve been blown out,” York Catholic senior Andrew Forjan said. “And knowing that we finally had a chance of doing something, we just narrowly missed it.”