The small amount of noise that emanated from Wilson’s locker-room celebration turned a few heads of those exiting the Northeastern High School gymnasium Wednesday night, but it didn’t elicit much more of a reaction.
The fans, much like the boys’ basketball team that call the gym home, were too busy being caught in a stunned silence.
The No. 3-seed Bobcats (21-3) saw their season come to an end in an upset, falling 78-58 to No. 14 seed Wilson (17-8) in a District 3-AAAA first-round contest. The year ends with back-to-back losses for Northeastern, which fell to Spring Grove in the York-Adams tournament on Feb. 11 in its previous time on the floor.
Christian Sload erupted for a game-high 37 points to lead the Bulldogs into Saturday’s 10 a.m. quarterfinal against No. 11 Lebanon (16-8).
“We didn’t expect to get beat,” Northeastern coach Jon Eyster said. “We thought we would survive and advance. There’s not a lot you can say to take away the sting of this defeat.”
With the Bobcats holding a trim 29-27 lead after the first half, the Bulldogs came out aggressive to open the third quarter. They attacked the basket at will and were able to adjust and break Northeastern’s pressure defense that had stalled them in the first 16 minutes.
A Mason McElroy free throw made it a one-point game before David Awurumbie cut through the lane, took a Sean McAndrew pass and hammered home a dunk on their next possession. That gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 30-29, and then the Sload show started.
A drive to the basket and subsequent converted free throw pushed Wilson’s advantage to 33-29 before a Donovian Maxfield 3-pointer brought the Bobcats to back to within one at 33-32. But that was as close as the Bobcats would see the score for the remainder of the game.
Sload unstoppable: Sload then turned a steal into an emphatic breakaway dunk on the other end and went on to score 11 more points, closing the quarter with 16. Sload scored 11 more in the fourth quarter before exiting the game with the result well in hand.
“We didn’t stop Christian,” Eyster said. “He basically goes right and we let him go right all night. They beat us to loose balls, they beat us to rebounds and we didn’t make shots from the perimeter and that’s a recipe for disaster for us.”
The defensive pressure that failed them in the second half was a key in the Bobcats finding their first-half success. Wilson was slow to get started, watching Northeastern race out to an early 7-0 lead to start the game.
Fred Mulbah scored the first five points of the game for Northeastern, on his way to seven on the night, all coming in the first quarter.
Brandon Coleman came off the bench to score eight points for Northeastern, including providing a pair of two-handed, highlight-reel slams coming off a pair of steals in the first half.
Maxfield scored a team-high 13 points for the Bobcats, including knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. Jeff Reynolds added 11 more for Northeastern.
The Bulldogs were also able to secure the upset by taking care of business at the free throw line, where they converted 30 of 44 attempts. McElroy knocked down 8 of 12 attempts and Sload connected on 10 of 11 tries.
Northeastern didn’t visit the line as frequently, but was effective when it did, knocking down 19 of 24 attempts.
Aside from Sload’s scoring success, the Bulldogs got 14 points each from Awurumibe and McElroy.
“We had five seniors that have been a big part of a lot of success here for the last three of four years. You just thank those kids for what they’ve done, and I just apologized for not being able to get them to the next game,” Eyster said of addressing his team after the loss.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.