HERSHEY -- Just a sophomore, Joe Marshall committed a turnover in the final 3 minutes Friday night at Giant Center that could have haunted him. It could have haunted his team, No. 1-seeded Susquehanna Township in its District 3 Class AAA quarterfinal against Northeastern.
Not when Marshall, part of an Indians lineup with only one senior, made up for the miscue by drawing a charging foul on Khalid Nwandu with 2:39 remaining. The basket made by Nwandu would have tied the score. Instead, it was a critical blow to the Bobcats' chances of an upset as the No. 9 seed in a 43-38 loss to the Indians (24-2).
A split-second call, it was one Northeastern coach Jon Eyster could only shake his head about.
"Sometimes you've got to get a call," Eyster said. "He's mugged for most of the game off the ball."
Nwandu, at times, carried the Bobcats (17-8), who will now face Boiling Springs on Monday night in Carlisle. The senior scored a game-high 17 points. He also pulled down more rebounds than anyone with seven. He even nailed a buzzer beater a few feet from the right 3-point line that sent Northeastern into the fourth quarter with a 32-30 lead.
"We knew it was just one shot and we couldn't get it back," Township junior guard Gabriel Mack said of Nwandu's 3-pointer.
Northeastern never again led, but the Bobcats kept close. A two-point game, a tie score, the momentum slightly tilted back-and-forth as the minutes and second ticked down.
Township got into a one-and-one free-throw situation with 2:14 left, as Northeastern committed its seventh team foul. At that point, the Indians could push their lead to three or four points, but they weren't in control.
Sophomore post Derrick Hoffman made sure of that. His basket inside pulled Northeastern within 40-38 of Township's lead with 40 seconds left. No one, including Marshall, could get Nwandu to draw that fifth and final foul.
"We were in the whole game," Eyster said. "A foul shot here, a call there, we get a chance. We win. But it didn't bounce our way."
Eyster said he was more concerned that Nwandu picked up his first two fouls early in the game. The Bobcats recovered from a slow start to stay within one, but their coach pointed to missed opportunities there as one time frame he'd like back.
The Bobcats protected the basketball throughout. They committed just 10 turnovers, but four of them came early in that first quarter, when they also shot 4-of-11 from the floor. They shot 15-of-40 for the game.
Nwandu, meanwhile, didn't pick up another foul until he was called for reaching in with 3:33 left. At the time, he was just inches from a clean steal and a clear path to tie the score on that occasion, as well. With the loss, Northeastern might have sent a small message. If anything, it gave the Class AAA top seed something to work on before its semifinal.
"We played horrible," Mack said. "We couldn't get into a flow. We had spurts where we could have kept it going. We just need to speed the game up."
Khalid Nwandu 6 3-5 17, Braheem Riley 3 0-0 6, Kobi Nwandu 0 0-0 0, Christian Eyster 0 0-0 0, Derrick Hoffman 2 1-1 5, Damon Marshall 0 0-0 0, Mike Coleman 3 0-0 8, Donovian Maxfield 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 3-6 38.
SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP (43)
Savalas Pope 2 2-6 6, Nehemiah Mack 1 1-2 4, Gabriel Mack 3 1-4 8, Joe Marshall 4 4-5 12, Jonas Page 4 0-0 8, Takhi Turner 2 1-2 5, Jordan Milberry 0 0-0 0, Lawrence Holley 0 0-0 0 . Totals 16 9-19 43.
Northeastern 8 12 12 6 -- 38
Susquehanna Twp. 9 15 6 13 -- 43
3-Point Goals: Northeastern 4 (K. Nwandu 2, Coleman 2), Susquehanna Township 2 (N. Mack, G. Mack).