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Northeastern works overtime, moves onto PIAA semifinals

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NEW HOLLAND - Near the end, after almost all of the craziness had transpired, Brandon Coleman and Austin Greene made eye contact on the floor and just started laughing.

Northeastern’s two senior starters and lifelong friends slapped hands.

Heart and soul, working overtime.

And then they pulled double overtime.

Eventually, they led Northeastern to its most remarkable victory in what has already been an historic season. Northeastern pulled out an 86-84 victory in double-overtime over Archbishop Carroll in a PIAA Class 5A boys’ basketball quarterfinal Saturday at Garden Spot High School.

Northeastern junior Fred Mulbah summed up the wild comeback moments later: “I never wanted to win so bad.”

Northeastern (30-2) advances to next week's state semifinal against Meadville at a time, date and site to be announced.

Northeastern needed its best fourth quarter of the season, and maybe the best fourth quarter in program history, to overcome a 15-point deficit. The crazy part is Northeastern didn’t even need a full eight minutes to erase Archbishop Carroll’s lead.

The Bobcats overcame the big deficit and long odds of winning with two dynamic spurts. They started the quarter with a 10-4 run, keyed by a pair of 3-pointers by freshman Nate Wilson.

“That gave us a little mojo, got our engines going a little bit,” Northeastern coach Jon Eyster said.

Moments later, Eyster called a timeout.

“Look, you’re knocking the next 3 down,” Eyster said he told Coleman. “He’s not guarding you, you’re shooting it.

“(Coleman) got a layup and then the next timeout I said, ‘He’s not going to guard you, you’re knocking it down. And then you’re going to knock down some more.’”

With the deficit still teetering between single and double digits, Coleman took over.

“Between him saying that and my teammates saying, ‘Let it fly,’ that gave me the confidence,” Coleman said. “Our motto’s been all year, ‘We can’t stop fighting.’ ”

Coleman hit a layup, a rainbow 3-pointer, a rainbow 3-pointer and another layup. The senior, who grew 3 inches between his junior and senior years, sparked a 13-2 run.

When Greene knocked down a shot with 1:04 left in regulation, the game was tied.

“When you’re down 15 going to the fourth quarter, it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to figure out you’ve got to put some pressure on,” Eyster said. “And (Archbishop Carroll) didn’t handle it.”

Northeastern trailed again, this time by two points with five seconds left in regulation, but Archbishop Carroll made the biggest mistake of the game. Attempting to inbound the ball, Archbishop Carroll committed an offensive, dead-ball foul when A.J. Hoggard bowled over Rizzuto.

Now with the ball under its own basket, Northeastern gave the ball to Mulbah, who drove from the arc, bounced off a defender and sank a layup to beat the buzzer.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen like that, I was just going with the game,” Mulbah said.

Northeastern allowed Archbishop Carroll to score just four points in the final 5:02 of regulation, and countered with 15 points.

In the first overtime, the lead changed five times. Mulbah had a breakaway layup in the final seconds, but the basket was waved off since it came a second too late. In double overtime, Coleman – of course it was Coleman – drove the lane with 2:50 to play to give Northeastern the lead for good. He added a dunk 25 seconds later.

Mulbah scored 19 points, and Rizzuto added 16.

Coleman finished the game by sinking his final nine shots, and he did not miss after the third quarter to score a game-high 31 points. Greene added 12 points.

Juniors Mulbah and Rizzuto receive most the attention from college coaches, including St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli, talking to the players after the game. The Northeastern players, however, point to two guys who didn’t start to shine until their final seasons as the main cogs. Coleman and Greene: They’re the heart and soul of the Bobcats.

“No. 1, they bring heart,” Rizzuto said. “They’re our leaders.”

Archbishop Carroll had yet another chance to extend the game in the final seconds of double overtime, but Carroll’s Hoggard rattled a jumper from near the free-throw line off the rim. Long-ball specialist Colin Daly scored a team-high 19 points with Hoggard adding 16 and Justin Anderson scoring 16.

“We just beat a really, really, really good team: One of the best teams in the state,” Greene said.

“We’ve all been playing together since sixth or seventh grade, we just have a chemistry that not a lot of people have. I look at it like they’re my brothers. I have three real brothers, and now I have 12 more brothers and I love them to death – like they’re my blood.”