That’s a wrap.
The 2018-19 Wyoming Valley Conference boys basketball season ended Wednesday, wrapping up a two-day stretch where Holy Redeemer, Wyoming Seminary, Nanticoke Area and Crestwood all suffered season-ending losses in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.
Of course, there’s still a few items of business on the agenda, namely the newspapers’ all-star selections, as well as the Dr. George P. Moses Senior All-Star Classic.
But, for all intents and purposes, competitive local high school basketball games of meaning are on a hiatus for the next nine months or so.
So, let’s tie a bow on this season by looking back on a dozen of the most memorable games from the past few months.
Covering an 18-team league such as the WVC could be difficult at times, so keep in mind that there are other games that could qualify for this list. This is just one reporter’s opinion and I hope you enjoy. Here they are, listed from season’s beginning to end.
Right off the bat, though, I’m going to start with a few honorable mentions: Coughlin 42-41 over Lake-Lehman on Dec. 7; Northwest 64-57 over Scranton on Dec. 18; Abington Heights 52-50 over Wyoming Seminary on Dec. 18; Dallas 52-39 over Hazleton Area on Jan. 25; Holy Redeemer 61-47 over Wyoming Seminary on Feb. 1; Hanover Area 38-36 over Holy Redeemer on Feb. 5; Tunkhannock 45-44 over Nanticoke Area on Feb. 7; Wyoming Seminary 53-43 over Nanticoke Area on Feb. 16; Bonner-Prendergast 70-52 over Nanticoke Area on March 12.
YATESVILLE — Pittston Area earned one of the most thrilling victories this season in local high school boys basketball.
Three weeks after coming back from an 18-point deficit to beat West Scranton in overtime, the Patriots reached back into their bag of tricks Thursday for another sensational win.
Trailing by a point with no room for error, junior guard Logan Booth drove hard to the hoop and made a contested layup with 0.8 seconds left, sealing a 54-53 Pittston Area win against Meyers.
“Logan’s not used to sitting for long periods of time, and he sat a long time tonight because of foul trouble,” Pittston Area head coach Alan Kiesinger said of Booth, who scored six points. “He stayed mentally engaged in the game and he was ready to make a big basket like that at the end.”
FINAL: Pittston Area beats Meyers 54-53 in WVC boys basketball. What a game! The Patriots now have six wins — as many as they had all last season. Here’s the winning shot by Logan Booth. @CoachKies pic.twitter.com/1BO7QC65Jq— Matt Bufano (@CVBufano) January 4, 2019
KINGSTON — Dimitri Gnall was the man of the hour Thursday night.
Actually, it was closer to two hours that Gnall dominated the spotlight at his home gym.
Wyoming Seminary’s high-flying, silky-shooting senior scored his 1,000th career point at 7:35 p.m.; he made the game-winning play at 9; and by 9:30, he was finally finishing all his interviews and photograph opportunities.
Gnall scored 20 points in Sem’s 45-43 win over Holy Redeemer, giving the Blue Knights sole possession of first place in their division and district.
WRIGHT TWP. — Mark Atherton didn’t need a rousing halftime pep talk, major offensive overhaul or even a subtle tweak.
His Crestwood boys basketball team simply went out, made more open shots from the field in the second half and crashed the boards harder than it did in the first half of its Wyoming Valley Conference showdown with rival Hazleton Area here Friday night.
The result: a 66-51 victory that kept the Comets unbeaten in conference play and moved them one game ahead of the Cougars in the WVC Division 1 standings.
“We were pretty positive at halftime,” Atherton said. “We thought we were doing everything we needed to do to (win), expect for boxing out on the boards.”
The win was the first for the Comets (13-2, 9-0 WVC) over Hazleton Area since beating the Cougars in a playoff for the division title in 2015.
WILKES-BARRE — GAR left it all on the court. Meyers did, too.
The most hyped basketball game of the Wyoming Valley Conference season lived up to and somehow exceeded all expectations Friday night, when the Wilkes-Barre Area rivals battled for one last time in the regular season.
A pair of GAR seniors connected for the game-winning play in overtime, a Jared O’Day steal and pass to Will Johnson, who laid in a contested fast-break layup in a 58-56 win.
“If I was writing a storybook, that’s probably how it would end,” said head coach Jerry Altavilla. “It might have been one of the greatest plays I’ve seen in this gym. It was unbelievable.”
The game was tied at 56 with 17.9 seconds left in overtime, at which point Meyers had possession and was inbounding the ball under its own basket.
But Meyers’ inbound pass — a looping pop fly past the top of the 3-point line — was intercepted by O’Day.
Before he even dribbled, O’Day sent a bounce pass to Johnson, who is the WVC’s leading scorer at 25.9 points per game.
“I knew he was going to make it. I knew,” O’Day said. “He’s a great finisher at the rim.”
Johnson and a Meyers defender were in a footrace to the basket.
“Honestly, I’m thinking, ‘Make the layup, make the layup, make the layup,’” Johnson recalled. “Regardless of who’s around you, who’s next to you, who’s behind you — don’t worry about them. Go up strong and make the layup. Jared made a great play on defense, he’d seen me for the fast-break layup and that’s all I was thinking. ‘Make the layup, Will. Don’t miss this.’”
Johnson won the race to the basket and went up with his left hand, dropping in what proved to be the game-winning basket with 13 seconds left.
DALLAS — Maybe there really isn’t too large a deficit for Nate Kreitzer and Nanticoke Area to overcome.
Fresh off digging out of a 13-point hole to down GAR in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 title game, the Trojans rallied from 18 down in the second half to stun Hazleton Area, 68-64, in a WVC boys basketball semifinal on Friday night at Dallas High School.
Once again, the sharpshooting Kreitzer was primarily responsible for the comeback with 35 points, including eight 3-pointers from all sorts of angles and distances. Twenty-six of his points and seven of his triples came in the second half as the Trojans turned a 34-16 deficit into a another triumph and a spot in the conference’s first overall title game.
Colby Butczynski’s free throw snapped a 64-all tie with 23.6 seconds left. Kreitzer later sank 3 of 4 free throws in the waning seconds to cap the Trojans’ second big-time comeback in three nights.
EXETER — Just when it appeared like Dallas was letting victory slip through its fingers, the Mountaineers found their second wind.
According to Dallas players and coaches, that’s no coincidence.
After leading by 14 points in the first half but entering the fourth quarter down two, No. 4 Dallas finished strong, riding Nick Nocito’s 20 points and Luke DelGaudio’s 16 to a 58-47 win against No. 5 Pittston Area in the District 2 Class 5A boys basketball quarterfinals at Wyoming Area.
“This game, we just took all the work we had in the offseason … and they couldn’t keep up with us in the fourth quarter,” DelGaudio said. “We were automatic and it was nice to watch.”
But DelGaudio was not just watching it happen, he was making it happen.
The 6-foot-2 junior finished with a double-double on 16 points and 11 rebounds, scoring eight points in the paint in the final period.
DelGaudio delivered the dagger score with 1:08 left, when he used a second effort to pull in a rebound and go up strong for a score and a 53-45 lead.
WILKES-BARRE — As soon as the shot flew from Colby Butczynski’s hand, he knew.
He didn’t need to wait to play the final 2.8 seconds. The Nanticoke Area junior understood what was happening.
“As soon as I shot it, I knew it was going in and we were going to play for the championship,” he said.
He was right.
Taking a picture-perfect pass from Nate Kreitzer, Butczynski spotted up at the top of the arc and ripped the nylon with a game-winning 3-pointer as Nanticoke Area held off upset-minded Tunkhannock, 49-48, Saturday night at King’s College.
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Holy Redeemer scored, and then Wyoming Seminary scored.
And then Redeemer scored … and Sem answered once again.
The District 2 Class 3A finalists went back-and-forth the entire third quarter Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“We knew this was going to be a war,” said Sem head coach Pete Moses.
The thrilling rubber match between rivals that split their two-game series in the regular season ended with the biggest shot of Todd Phillips’ career, as the Sem junior hit a jump shot that put the Blue Knights ahead for good, 48-47, earning them a district title to go with their division and conference championships.
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The way Hazleton Area and Scranton traded baskets in the District 2/4 Class 6A Subregional boys basketball final, a fantastic finish seemed inevitable Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Da’mir Faison and his Cougar teammates had other ideas.
Faison scored 15 of his game-high 19 points and dominated inside on both ends of the floor in the second half as Hazleton Area pulled away for a 48-35 victory and their third straight district championship.
“This means everything … playing and winning with all my (fellow) seniors,’’ Faison said. “A lot of these guys have never been on this stage before. To do this with them, it’s a blessing. A lot of them are going to remember this for the rest of their lives.’’
Senior Collin Cook joined rarefied air Saturday, surpassing 1,000 career points in a 46-42 Holy Redeemer win against Wellsboro in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A boys basketball playoffs.
Cook badly jammed a finger early in the game at Troy Area High School in Bradford County, but he received some medical attention and played through it.
Soon enough, he made a 3-pointer in the first quarter and joined Peter Alexis as Redeemer’s second player to score 1,000 points.
Senior guard Jaxson Yaple scored a team-high 21 points, but Yaple and Northwest came up just short Saturday in a 42-41 overtime loss to Millville in the PIAA Class 2A boys basketball first round.
The loss at Williamsport High School finished Northwest’s season at 15-11, as well as the high school basketball careers of Yaple, Tyler Stevens, Bryce Koser and Sam Saxe, who led the Rangers to back-to-back state tournament appearances.
“I’m heartbroken for the 17 guys that are in the locker room, especially the four seniors,” said first-year head coach Sean Miller. “It’s their last high school basketball game. But those four guys, they’ve changed the way people view Northwest basketball. They changed the culture down in Shickshinny and down at Northwest. Those guys made a difference and I think, as far as I’m concerned, people are going to start recognizing Northwest as back where they belong.”
In a phone interview, Miller described the game as being a back-and-forth affair where Northwest never trailed by too much.
The Rangers entered the third quarter down 26-21, but Yaple scored seven points in a fourth quarter that forced overtime.
“It was the same story with overtime. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” Miller said. “Jaxson Yaple hit a 3 to put us up 1 with about 30 seconds to go.”
Millville’s (25-1) Drew Schultz countered with a go-ahead bucket with less than 15 seconds left and Northwest took possession needing a field goal to win.
“We got a shot off,” Miller said. “Just didn’t hit.”
BETHLEHEM — Neumann-Goretti has not won eight state championships in the last nine years without some close calls along the way.
But it’s hard to imagine the Saints having to endure any suspense greater than what Wyoming Seminary provided Wednesday.
Wyoming Seminary nearly led wire-to-wire, except in the game’s most crucial moments, as senior Christian Ings hit a game-winning layup with 2 seconds left in Neumann-Goretti’s 61-59 win in the second round of the PIAA Class 3A boys basketball playoffs at Freedom High School.
The loss ended Sem’s bid for a state title — to go along with its division, conference and district titles — with a 26-3 record.
And that’s all. If you feel like a deserving game was left off this list, please drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading all season.