Northeastern puts on a show in state tourney
Northeastern's Antonio Rizzuto drove baseline and dunked to help spark the Bobcats' first-half run against Wissahickon in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
Wissahickon found out the hard way.
Northeastern can ratchet up its defensive intensity, dropping a tidal wave of activity all at once. The Bobcats managed to hit Wissahickon with wave after wave late in the first quarter.
Steals turned into buckets.
It came in the form of a baseline drive and thunderous dunk by Antonio Rizzuto.
It came in the form of a Fred Mulbah steal near midcourt and a lob for another Rizzuto thunder dunk.
It came in the form of what seemed like drive after drive from Mulbah.
It came in the form of Northeastern going to the line in the double bonus with more than three minutes left in the second quarter.
In the end, it all led to Northeastern's 78-66 victory against Wissahickon in a Class 5A state tournament first-round victory Friday at West York High School.
"We started to play 'D,' you know," Mulbah said. "It takes us awhile to turn it on.
"Once we start getting a couple big plays, getting a lot of energy, we just go."
The Trojans actually had a comfortable lead early in this game, when their outside shots came smooth and easy. Wissahickon led 12-5 in the opening minutes.
After Northeastern closed the gap, Rizzuto managed to spark the run, throwing down a dunk after a baseline drive with about 2:25 to play in the first. The play sliced the deficit to one point.
"When that happens it makes us go crazy," Rizzuto said.
Northeastern grabbed its first lead with about 1:30 left in the opening quarter, and then freshman Nate Wilson added a trey to open up some breathing room.
"They were playing like a little weird matchup zone for us, and we were trying to get our 3s off," Wissahickon junior Chaz Owens said. "But our 3s weren't falling, and we couldn't even attack the basket because they were in that funny matchup zone."
When the second quarter began, so did the real fun. In the opening minute, Mulbah pick-pocketed the ball and drove. But instead of finishing with his own flourish he lobbed the ball to Rizzuto for an alley-oop dunk.
"It's something me and him always talk about," Mulbah said. "It was the perfect situation, I had to pass it up for my teammate."
The rout was on. Northeastern's 17-0 run ended when Wissahickon sank its first shot of the second quarter with 4:31 to play before halftime.
"We were just hitting shots and they were starting to foul and get a little mad," Rizzuto said.
Rizzuto matched his career high with 30 points, needing less than 13 minutes to score his first 19. Mulbah added 19 points.
Owens — the son of former NBA player Billy Owens, a four-time state champion from Carlisle — picked up his third foul and headed to the bench in the second quarter. But he didn't commit another foul and finished with 24 points.
The play turned chippy in the lopsided second quarter, with fans serenading the officials off the court at halftime with a chorus of boos. The partisan Northeastern crowd didn't like seeing Rizzuto floored and no call at the end of the half. Officials called the game tight the rest of the way, seemingly calming what could have escalated into some dangerous play.
Northeastern's Brandon Coleman fouled fouled out with more than five minutes left in the game, but Northeastern still led by double digits.
Wissahickon's post player Zach Reiner fouled out on an Austin Greene drive with 4:28 to play, and adding to the Trojans' issues, Shane Ford then caught the attention of officials to earn a technical foul. That exchange helped Northeastern to drive its lead back to 20 points.
Wissahickon cut the deficit to 10, but by then it was too late to make a run at tying the game.
It marks the first Northeastern boys' victory in the state tournament since the 2003-04 team reached the second round.
"We've been planning this since we were sophomores and freshmen," Mulbah said about Northeastern's state run. "We worked really hard to get here."
Chaz Owens 8 7-12 24, Oliphant 1 1-2 4, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Gelman 1 0-0 2, Rapoport 3 2-2 9, Shane Ford 7 1-1 18, Lawrence 0 1-2 1, Fortescue 0 0-0 0, Reiner 4 0-1 8. Totals: 24 12-20 66.
Coleman 2 1-4 6, Q. Mulbah 0 0-0 0, Austin Greene 3 7-11 13, Antonio Rizzuto 8 7-12 30, Fred Mulbah 5 9-22 19, Nate Wilson 4 0-0 10, Eyster 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 24-49 78.
3-pointers: Wissahickon 6 (Ford 3, Rapoport, Owens, Oliphant). Northeastern 8 (Rizzuto 5, Wilson 2, Coleman).
GameTimePA reporters Teddy Feinberg and Jim Seip preview the state tournament for the 13 squads from the York-Adams area. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com