As Richard Allen dribbled away the final seconds, a huge contingent of St. John Neumann fans stood and applauded. Then they started chanting something no Knights boys team has heard this late in a season this century.
Despite facing two of the HAC-III's best teams in a four-night span, Neumann is still District 4 Class A's only undefeated team.
Alize Johnson had another monster game, Allen played great defense and Jordan Cole heated up in the second half as Neumann held off Bloomsburg, 62-54 Friday at the Catholic Community Center. The victory came three nights after Neumann won at defending district champion Sullivan County and fans could not contain their giddiness as they chanted, "undefeated!" during the final seconds.
Jordan Cole of St. John Neumann drives for a layup as Kevin Gross of Bloomsburg defends Friday night at the Catholic Community Center. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"I don't like to hear that (chant) at the beginning because I don't want to lose, but at the end I like it," Allen said. "It was just like Sullivan. We were struggling a little more in this one and things weren't going in as much but we still grinded it out. We still dig down. We still want to be undefeated and keep that going."
Neumann (10-0, 5-0) has taken out two of last year's three teams that shared the HAC-III title in the past four nights. They try and go for the sweep Tuesday against South Williamsport.
How the Knights won last night was especially impressive. Against Sullivan, they started strong and never really let up. This time, Neumann again stormed out and built a 14-point lead early in the second quarter before going cold, scoring just 10 points in the next 10 minutes and watching that lead get cut to two late in the third quarter.
It was a different circumstance, but Neumann did not flinch. The Knights dominated most of the fourth quarter, hit 5 of 7 shots, turned up the defensive pressure and pulled away against a strong Class AA team.
"We were confident we were going to win but we knew we had to play harder. We know we can play better than that and I think everyone did a good job in the fourth quarter," Cole said. "This showed we're a tough team."
"It's a good win for us because we were tested and we had to push ourselves and they got fairly close and we were able to withstand their run," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "Not that I wanted to get into that situation, but the nice thing about them is they can rally and it's nice to see them pull it together and get it going."
Johnson scored 22 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds while Cole scored 18 points and dealt five assists. Allen had 12 points, six assists and played excellent defense. Johnson has 52 points and 31 rebounds in last two games and he and Cole hit three 3-pointers in the third-quarter's final 72 seconds to jump-start Neumann's offense.
Allen assisted on each of those 3-pointers but his defense made him one of the game's most valuable players. The junior point guard defended explosive Bloomsburg guard Zach Mrozek straight up nearly the entire game. Allen hounded him all night, made four steals and held him to just 12 points before the senior hit two long-range, circus-like 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds after the outcome had been all but decided.
Allen is becoming Neumann's go-to defensive stopper. His strong performance last night came after he held Sullivan sharpshooter Zach Meyer to five points and no 3-pointers.
"I kind of just wanted to stay in his area so he couldn't put up a shot and if he did, I wanted to make sure it was contested," Allen said. "I kind of didn't choose this role, it was kind of thrust upon me so I guess I have to take it. I don't mind it. I like doing it. It makes me work on both sides."
Neumann led 26-12 less than three minutes into the second quarter but was up just 39-37 in the third-quarter's final seconds. Johnson then hit a 3-pointer in the corner with 3.6 seconds remaining and that seemed to spark Neumann entering the fourth quarter. All five players Petcavage used in the fourth quarter scored and a Ryan Reid assist and layup pushed the lead to nine with five minutes remaining.
The Knights forced four Bloomsburg turnovers in the quarter's first four minutes and Reid's steal led to a Reid basket, capping a 12-0 run and putting Neumann up 15 with just 2:53 remaining. The Panthers (7-4, 3-2) never pulled closer than seven and that was not until 15 seconds remained.
"Coach stressed we shouldn't come in too confident and should be ready to play a good team and I think we did a good job of that," Cole said. "It was a good, hard-fought win."
"It was a good team win," Petcavage said. "Now we gear up for South on Tuesday. That should be a fun game."
They are all fun games at Neumann these days.
Zach Mrozek 8 0-0 18, Tyler Vincent 5 1-1 13, Coby Klingerman 0 0-0 0, Zach Ashford 1 0-0 2, Colton Hock 3 1-3 7, Dylan Everhart 1 2-2 4, Kevin Gros 4 2-2 10. Totals 22 6-8 54.
Alize Johnson 8 5-6 22, Tyree Vidal 1 0-1 2, Jordan Cole 4 7-8 18, Richard Allen 4 4-7 12, Noah Beiter 0 2-2 2, Ryan Reid 3 0-0 6, Isaac Beiter 0 0-0 0, Andrew Keeler 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 18-24 62.
Bloomsburg10 11 16 17-54
Neumann18 10 14 20-62
3-pointers: Bloomsburg 4 (Mrozek 2, Vincent 2); Neumann 4 (Cole 3, Johnson).
Records: Neumann 10-0, 5-0 HAC-III. Bloomsburg 7-4, 3-2.