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
Talent and leadership are two qualities that one hears a lot about when discussing the Northeastern boys' basketball team.
Those characteristics were on full display Thursday night.
Seniors Fred Mulbah and Antonio Rizzuto led the Bobcats to a 65-62 victory over rival Central York to win their second consecutive York-Adams League tournament title.
The victory, before a packed house at York College's Wolf Gym, enabled Northeastern (23-2) to become the first team to win back-to-back York-Adams titles since York High in 2012-2013. As they have all season, Rizzuto and Mulbah were the twin engines that drove Northeastern to the win, with 28 and 20 points, respectively.
"We knew it was going to be tough because they're playing well and they've added some scoring threats that weren't really there earlier in the year," Bobcats' coach Jon Eyster said. "Both teams missed some foul shots at the end ... and they probably think they let it get away. It was two good teams and it went our way tonight."
"Our keys were to take good shots, and we weren't early on," Eyster added. "We got gassed early on. I don't know whether it was the adrenaline or what, but it effected our defense and they were able to get by us with dribble penetration. But once we settled down and stopped that, we were able to get some things in transition, because if you let them get back and set up their defense, they're tough."
"They just don't stop coming at you," said Central senior Garrett Markey, who led the Panthers with 15 points. "They have a lot of weapons, and it's just hard to guard them for four quarters because they're so athletic.
"(Mulbah and Rizzuto) are really good. I play AAU ball with them and my hat's off to them. They're good guys ... and really, really athletic."
Missed foul shots: Northeastern didn't take its first lead until 1:53 remaining in the third quarter when Rizzuto hit a 3-point bucket from deep in the right corner. Subsequent baskets by Quay Mulbah and Fred Mulbah in the final 1:09 of the third quarter gave the Bobcats a 45-39 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
However, this one was far from over. Although Northeastern took a 55-47 lead with 3:59 left on a basket by Fred Mulbah, Central wouldn't quit and whittled the lead to 59-56 with 1:47 remaining. From there, however, Northeastern missed the front end of a bonus situation three straight times, two by Fred Mulbah and one by D.J. Hamilton.
Northeastern never relinquished the lead, but the missed foul shots allowed the Panthers to hang around. Even Rizzuto wasn't immune. He went 2 for 4 from the line in the final minute. His foul shot with 25 seconds left gave Northeastern a 63-60 edge but a quick basket by Saa'hir Cornelius after a Markey miss cut Northeastern's lead to 63-62 with less than 10 seconds.
Fred Mulbah was quickly fouled, but this time, he made both ends of the double bonus to seal the Bobcats' victory.
"I just took two deep breaths," he said. "I guess I was trying too hard and I wasn't relaxed enough at the foul line."
Bobcats rally: At one point in the second quarter, Central built a 27-18 advantage, however, it was short-lived as the Bobcats rallied to tie the score 30-30 at halftime on a half-court, buzzer-beater by Rizzuto.
"After the half, we took the mindset that we were going to play like it was a 0-0 game," Rizzuto said. "We know we have to work on the foul shooting, but we played hard and fortunately, things worked out in the end."
"That's Antonio for you," Central coach Kevin Schieler said. "Even with seven-tenths of a second left, he can find a way to keep his team alive and give them a chance. There's no quit in that young man.
"But in a game as close as this, you could probably go back and pick out 10 or 15 plays that might have made a difference in a game such as this that had so much on the line. I think at one point in the third quarter we missed six foul shots in a row ourselves."
"A rebound here, a turnover there ... if we look back at the game we could probably find one or two plays that could have made the difference," he said.
Both schools will participate in next week's District 3 playoffs. No. 3 seed Northeastern, the defending Class 5-A champion, hosts No. 14 Conrad Weiser at 7 p.m. Monday in the first round, while Central (16-8), the No. 8 seed in Class 6-A, will host No. 9 Dallastown on Tuesday evening.
CENTRAL YORK (16-8)
Markey 5 3-7 15, Pribula 4 4-4 14, Cornelius 5 0-0 11, Richard 5 0-0 10, Ray 3 0-2 7, Hunt 0 0-0 0, Bender 1 0-0 2, Salter 1 0-0 3. Totals: 24 7-13 62. Three-point field goals: Markey 2, Pribula 2, Cornelius, Ray, Salter.
Mulbah 8 4-6 20, Wilson 3 2-2 10, Rizzuto 9 4-6 28, Hamilton 0 1-3 1, Eyster 0 0-0 0, Mulbah 3 0-0 6, Sanderson 0 0-0 0, Brodbeck 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 11-17 65. Three-point field goals: Rizzuto 6, Wilson 2.
Central York 17 13 9 23 – 62
Northeastern 13 17 15 20 – 65
Reach George Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org.