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Northeastern beats K-D, will have chance to defend its York-Adams boys' basketball title

  • The Northeastern boys' basketball team beat Kennard-Dale on Tuesday night.
  • Northeastern advances to the York-Adams title game Thursday against Central York.
  • Northeastern is the defending York-Adams League boys' basketball champion.

RED LION — Entering the York-Adams League boys’ basketball semifinals Tuesday, Feb. 13, there were some questions about whether Kennard-Dale would be able to hold its own against a team such as Northeastern.

The Rams, who finished second in Division II behind Dover, had not played any D-I teams during the regular season, let alone anyone the caliber of the Bobcats, the defending league and District 3 Class 5-A champions.

Early on, it appeared as if K-D was over-matched. The Bobcats raced to a 12-0 lead just minutes into play, prompting the Rams to call a timeout.

At that point, it was either sink or swim for coach Jake Roupe’s club. To Roupe’s satisfaction, his team swam. The Rams outscored Northeastern 28-17 to draw within a point with just under two minutes left in the opening half.

That was as close as Roupe’s upstart Rams would get, however. Led by a game-high 25 points from senior Fred Mulbah, Northeastern survived a bit of a scare to claim a 58-44 triumph at Red Lion High School.

The Bobcats (22-2) will take on backyard rival Central York (16-7) in the league final Thursday, Feb. 15, at York College at 7 p.m. The Panthers scored a 56-42 victory over New Oxford in the first semifinal at Red Lion.

Rams won't go without a fight: Getting out to an early 12-point lead had a lot of the fans in attendance Tuesday wondering if this meeting would be a bust. The Rams, however, were not going to go down without a fight.

“We have it written on the front of the shirts (we wear) in warm-ups,” Roupe said. “It says ‘we won’t back down’ and I just said to the guys (in the timeout), ‘guys, we can’t back down. They got off to a good start and we can’t back down' and we didn’t.”

Getting back into the game was mainly contingent on K-D making shots, which Jacob Thomas did, draining a 3-pointer to get his team on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter.

“They made some shots,” Northeastern coach Jon Eyster said. “And that happens sometimes.”

Adam Freese did a good chunk of that damage. The K-D senior connected on five 3-point shots to pace the Rams with 15 points. It was Freese who hit a big 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the first half to cut the Bobcats advantage to 29-28.

“We started shooting well and started fighting back,” Roupe said.

A veteran coach such as Eyster, however, has seen a lot during his coaching career. He knew Tuesday’s contest would not be as one-sided as Northeastern's 65-26 quarterfinal win vs. York Tech.

“They made some deep shots,” Eyster said. “And some of the them were guarded and some of them were late challenges.”

Bobcats struggle to make shots: Eyster contrasted K-D’s shooting with his own team’s lack of shot-making. Many of Northeastern’s points came from the transition game. The Bobcats had their share of trouble against K-D’s 3-2 zone.

“We tried two different looks against their zone,” Eyster said. “And neither was great, to be honest with you. When a team is playing a zone and you’re not knocking down a lot of 3s, it’s a good defense.”

Northeastern’s Antonio Rizzuto, the Y-A League’s leading scorer at 24.4 points per game, was held to nine points.

"I don’t think they did too much against him,” Eyster said of Rizzuto. “I just think he missed some open shots and missed some open shots badly.”

Fortunately for the Bobcats, Mulbah was there to keep his team afloat. The emotional spark plug for his squad, Mulbah tallied 13 of his team’s 24 points in the second half.

“I made my first shots and after that I just told myself that I was going to be aggressive,” Mulbah said. “Antonio was kind of off, but usually he’s on and that usually doesn’t happen. Hopefully it was just a once (in a while) thing.”

Good preparation for K-D: The Rams (18-6) will have some time to get ready for the District 3 playoffs next week. Despite falling just short, Roupe feels his team now knows that they're adequately prepared to take on any team they may face in districts.

“Yeah, things didn’t go our way,” Roupe said. “But I told they guys in the locker room that if a couple of things go our way that it’s a different ballgame.”

K-D freshman Carter Day was the only other player Tuesday to reach double-figures in scoring with 12 points.

Northeastern beat Central twice during the regular season. Northeastern also beat Central in last year's title game.

Tickets: Advanced tickets for the title game will be sold from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday and from noon until 3 p.m. Thursday in Northeastern's ninth-grade office (198 N. Hartman St., Manchester).  Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.