The Northeastern boys' basketball team repeated as York-Adams League champions with a thrilling victory over Central York on Thursday night at York College. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
Antonio Rizzuto wasn’t about to let the moment get away from him and his Northeastern High School boys’ basketball teammates.
Central York raced out to sizable advantage during the second quarter of Thursday’s York-Adams League championship game at a packed Wolf Gym at York College. Cold shooting plagued the Bobcats during that period and the Panthers were taking full advantage, stretching the edge to 27-18 at one point.
The flow of the game prompted Northeastern head coach Jon Eyster to call a timeout. He needed his Bobcats to settle down if they were going to get things going.
“He came over to the timeout, and he was like ‘hey, good thing is, we’re fine,” Eyster said. “Those were his words, ‘we’re fine, we’re going to score, so we’re fine.’ We were fine, we never really panicked. Good shooter makes shots eventually.”
Rizzuto’s words would prove prophetic.
From there, Rizzuto took over and was a major factor in the Bobcats capturing their second-straight York-Adams crown, 65-62 over Central York. The senior leader and University at Albany recruit was able to find multiple ways to put his leadership on display.
First, Rizzuto found his stroke. He scored 13 of his game-high 28 points during a second quarter that would see his Bobcats erase the early efforts of the Panthers and set the game back to even at the half, 30-30.
“I just needed to keep shooting,” Rizzuto said, his second Y-A gold medal around his neck. “Obviously, I missed a few at the beginning, but just to keep shooting the right shot for the team, that’s just how it happened.”
Buzzer-beater: Rizzuto knocked down a trio of 3-pointers during that stretch. But none of his shots were more dramatic, and perhaps more game changing, than his final 3-pointer of that sequence.
With only seven-tenths of a second left and Northeastern in-bounding from mid-court, Rizzuto streaked toward Quay Mulbah’s in-bounds pass. Rizzuto grabbed it in stride and launched himself to his right, buying enough space to heave a shot that banked in as the buzzer was sounding.
It electrified the Bobcat faithful, and more importantly, sent the two teams into the locker room tied. It also put some looks of dejection on his opponents' faces, and gave his Northeastern teammates new life. It changed the complexion of a game that looked like it might be struggle for the Bobcats.
“So there was like 13 seconds left, and they ended up taking me out because they didn’t want me to get a quick foul,” Rizzuto said. “We had the ball with .7 seconds and (coach Eyster) just put me in, it was just an in-the-moment kind of thing, threw it up there and made it.”
Passing the test: In the second half, Rizzuto became just as effective as a passer as he was a scorer. Many of his passes would find teammate and fellow senior standout Fred Mulbah.
Whenever the tight Panthers defense seemed to key on Rizzuto, he was able to find a cutting Mulbah for an easy basket and the Bobcats established the lead Northeastern needed to hang on.
Finally, as time was winding down, that same cool, calm demeanor presented itself at the free-throw line. Both he and Mulbah would knock down clutch free throws, helping Northeastern wrap up its championship performance.
Afterward, the experienced Rizzuto, who’s been down this road many times before, was just as serene, making Thursday’s title-worthy performance feel like just another night at the office.
“I need to do what my team needs me to do,” Rizzuto said.”Some games it’s not like that, but I just try to do the best I can every game.”
That he did, and more, Thursday night.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.