BOYS' HOOPS: Northeastern holds on
Northeastern senior Kobi Nwandu understood the bigger-picture significance of Wednesday night's game against Eastern York.
The 71-69 road victory was more than just another win, which just so happened to be the Bobcats' seventh in a row. It also meant much more than the team getting one step closer to clinching the York-Adams League Division II title.
What the victory showed was the team's character. It was a test for Northeastern and it passed — barely. Because, up until Wednesday night, the team had rarely been tested, beaten just once on the year, and you can count on one hand how many games were decided by fewer than 10 points. So, as the team nears the end of the regular season and can gradually start to turn its attention to the all-but assured postseason tournaments, this type of game against the Golden Knights was just what was needed.
"It's always good to have a close game," Nwandu said. "You don't want to blow out every team, you need to practice finishing down the stretch, which I think we did poorly on. We're going to work on that in practice. ... It's always good to have a close game, but we won the game and that's all that matters."
For a moment, in the second and third quarters, it looked like the Bobcats (10-0 Division II, 14-1 overall) were going to pull away from Eastern (8-3 Division II, 13-4 overall), building a lead to as large as 10 midway through the third. And the way Northeastern can score, it just didn't seem like the Golden Knights were going to have the firepower to keep pace.
But then, Broguen Nicholas and Evan Springer got going for the Golden Knights, who were attempting to keep their 10-game winning streak alive. That streak dated back to the last time these two teams squared off. Nicholas began Eastern's comeback bid with 14 points in the third quarter, despite not having a particularly strong shooting night overall. Then, in the fourth, Springer got unconscious from behind the 3-point line, making four consecutive 3-pointers. He rattled off 14 of the team's 18 points in a five-minute span to pull the Golden Knights to within one. He finished with 20 points, including nailing six 3-pointers, but it was the three he couldn't come up with at the buzzer that proved pivotal. His buzzer-beating 3-point attempt just caught the back of the rim and bounced out.
"He's a good shooter," Eastern head coach Jon Reichard said about Springer. "We make a joke about it. I even tell him during timeouts that we pay him big money to make the three and he is a little reserved, he's a little shy where he doesn't trust his game. Where he came from last year and where he is now, he's a good basketball player. ... When he hit that first one, his whole demeanor changed and he looked at me and I thought, 'he's got it.'"
On the other side, it wasn't one of the several good upperclassmen who led the way for the Bobcats, but instead it was sophomore Fred Mulbah.
He led the team with 19 points, scoring most of them during the most important parts of the game. After the Golden Knights held a 14-11 lead after the first quarter and expanded it to seven early in the second quarter, it was Mulbah who led Northeastern's comeback. He shot a perfect 5 for 5 in the second quarter, scoring 11 points to help the team ultimately build an eight-point halftime lead. Then, as Eastern made its fourth-quarter charge, he was there again for the Bobcats, matching the Golden Knights' buckets, scoring six more points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to help keep his team ahead.
"He's a good player," Nwandu said about Mulbah's game. "He's going to be really good when he gets older. He does what he can. He attacks the basket real well and he can knock down the open shot. We know his talent level. He doesn't always come up in the scoring, but we knew what he could do coming into the game."
Aside from Mulbah's 19, Donovian Maxfield finished with 17 points, 15 of which came on 3-pointers, and Nwandu finished with 15.
Eastern got a game-high 21 points from Nicholas, despite shooting just 6 of 19 from the floor. Jared Achterberg added 16 points.
Eastern did show drastic improvement from the first meeting with Northeastern, when the Golden Knights fell by 22 points.
"When you get in big games with big crowds and having to keep your composure, and you can't hear me yelling from the sidelines, and you have to do some of it yourself, this game is huge," Reichard said. "That's not an unhappy locker room. We are talking, immediately as we went in there, about our next game. ... We are extremely proud, they are happy, we played hard and had a chance to win, what else can you ask for? They're top four in (District 3) AAAA, kicking everybody's doors in, and we stayed right there. We were right there."
Central York 52, Dallastown 49: At Dallastown, the home team gave the York-Adams Division I leaders a scare before the Panthers pulled out the win. Nathan Markey (19), Jared Wagner (14) and Onterio Edmonds (11) each hit double digits in scoring to lead Central. Aaron Ward (13) and Mike Diaz (11) led Dallastown in scoring. Central improved to 15-2 overall and 10-0 in Division I.
York High 80, New Oxford 68: At New Oxford, Trey Shifflett led the Bearcats with 23 points. York also got double-digit efforts from Jacquez Casiano (14), Kristopher Johnson (14), Montrel Morgan (13) and Elliott Wilson (12). Devon Duvall (23), Jordan Brown (14) and Ben Lehman (13) led New Oxford in scoring. York High improved to 11-6 overall and 7-2 in York-Adams Division I.
Spring Grove 62, South Western 44: At Spring Grove, Eli Brooks led the Rockets with 24 points. Darin Gordon knocked in 17 points for the winners, while Grant Wierman scored 12. Spring Grove improved to 7-2 in York-Adams Division I and 13-2 overall.
Susquehannock 44, York Suburban 43: At Suburban, trailing by five points at halftime, the Warriors used a 19-10 edge in the third quarter to take the lead before hanging on for the trim victory. Josh Stoneberg led all scorers with 15 points for Susquehannock.
York Catholic 70, York Tech 36: At Spry, D'Andre Davis scored a game-high 13 points to lead the Irish. Steven Nigro scored 12 points for the winners, while Melik Martin and Zach Echevaria each knocked in 10. York Catholic improved to 11-0 in York-Adams Division III and 13-4 overall.
West York 64, Dover 50: At West York, the hosts raced out to 15-point lead at the half before cruising the remainder of the way. Kenton Meckley scored a team-high 20 points for West York. Teammate Darian McCauley added 19. Najah Fink led Dover with 26 points. West York improved to 9-6 overall and 6-4 in York-Adams Division II.
Gettysburg 60, Kennard-Dale 36: At Fawn Grove, the Warriors cruised behind 17 points from leading scorer Marquise Camel. Ravaughn Dillard added 14 more points for Gettysburg. Adam Freese led the Rams with 13 points.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.