One night after going a stretch of two-plus quarters without a point, including seven consecutive misses, Northeastern's Antonio Rizzuto made sure another poor shooting night didn't creep into his game on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
Facing a strong Dallastown team on the road, Rizzuto came out firing, hitting his first shot of the game to get off to a fast start. That make signaled just the beginning for him. Every shot he put up felt like it was going in, probably because, for the most part, it did.
Rizzuto scored a career-high 39 points on 14 of 20 shooting to lead the Bobcats to a 79-60 win over the Wildcats, remaining perfect on the season at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in York-Adams Division I.
"I know I'm a good shooter with all the work I put into it," Rizzuto said. "I'm confident with my shot, and tonight was just another night. I forgot about last night as soon as it was over."
Because of Rizzuto's seeming inability to miss, Northeastern raced out to a sizable lead before Dallastown (2-4, 0-3) could even get into a flow. At one point, the Bobcats went on a 13-0 run to build a 17-2 lead, before eventually settling for a 21-7 cushion after the first quarter.
Of those 21 points, Rizzuto accounted for 16, going 6 for 8 from the field and 4 for 5 on 3-pointers. Even he couldn't restrain himself from bragging about the groove he was in.
"It just felt automatic," he said.
His red-hot shooting became contagious for the rest of Northeastern in the second quarter. Rizzuto continued to bury shot after shot, while other players chipped in to carry the load. By halftime, the Bobcats found themselves in front, 42-16, with the game in hand with a half of basketball still to play.
By himself, Rizzuto was outscoring the Wildcats, ending the first half with 25 points on 9 of 12 shooting, including 7 of 9 from 3-point range. As a team, Northeastern shot 57 percent, while Dallastown was held to just 25 percent.
"The scouting report, believe it or not, said 'Don't leave Mr. Rizzuto open,'" Wildcats' head coach Mike Grassel said. "...He's a match-up problem. He and (Fred) Mulbah are match-up problems and tonight (Rizzuto) hit shots."
To Dallastown's credit, with how poorly things went in the first half and coming less than 24 hours after a crushing overtime loss to York High, it still battled over the final two quarters. The Wildcats outscored the Bobcats by five in the third quarter, which hardly made a dent in the 26-point halftime deficit.
Dallastown again outscored Northeastern in the fourth, making Grassel at least somewhat encouraged that his team didn't quit.
For the Bobcats, for how well things went in the opening half, they weren't as fundamentally sound in the second half, according to head coach Jon Eyster. Northeastern still managed to score the ball, but its defense lacked, leading to easy points for the Wildcats, with Dallastown scoring 44 points over the final 16 minutes.
Keeping up with his dominant first half, Rizzuto scored nine points in the third quarter to get to 34 for the game. He added five more midway through the fourth quarter and had an open layup to eclipse 40, but passed it up and was removed shortly after.
Joining Rizzuto in double figures were D.J. Hamilton, who finished with 17, and Mulbah, who added 12.
Following a big win over Central York on Tuesday, the two key D-I wins on back-to-back nights showed Eyster his team is mentally tough when facing quality foes.
"We are a pretty mentally-tough team and I didn't know if we were, going into last night," he said. "I was a wreck last night before the game because these were two really good teams and I didn't know what we were going to have."
For the Wildcats, they had three guys reach double figures, with Braden Caldwell and Will Barton each finishing with 15. Nike McGlynn added 12.
With high expectations to finish near the top of D-I, but already sitting in an 0-3 hole, Dallastown must quickly rebound before the season gets away from it.
"We're 2-4 and, I wouldn't say our backs are against the wall, but we gotta rattle off some wins here," Grassel said. "We have the team to do it, it's just a matter of putting all the pieces together for 32 minutes."
Gettysburg 52, West York 45: At Gettysburg, the Warriors were outscored 13-7 in the first quarter, but outscored the Bulldogs in each of the following quarters to rally for the win. Zach Ketterman's 15 points paced Gettysburg. Dayvon Cortez had 14 points for West York.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com