Otis Anderson watched two defenders converge and then beat them both, scoring off a beautiful 360 spin move while earning a huge ovation. A minute later Dominic Marrozzo sent a large and enthusiastic St. John Neumann crowd into near delirium, swishing a long jumper as the final seconds ticked away.
Anderson and Marrozzo do not play a lot of varsity basketball yet, but they made their presence felt Friday at Montoursville. All the Knights did. And one of the best seasons in Neumann history continues.
Alize Johnson nearly recorded a triple-double, Neumann missed only eight of 34 first-half shots and all but one player scored. It was a true team effort as the Knights stomped Harrisburg Christian, 84-38 in their Class A state tournament opener. The District 4 champions broke open the game early and earned a second round matchup Tuesday at a time and place to be determined against Philadelphia's Math, Civics and Science.
St. John Neumann Regional Academy's Otis Anderson gets tangled up with Harrisburg Christian's David Yeckley at Montoursville High School on Friday. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"We won the district title, but our coach wanted us to focus more on the first round of states so we took this game pretty serious," Johnson said. "We wanted to come out with a lot of intensity."
That was not a problem. Neumann (24-2) scored the game's first eight points and overwhelmed Harrisburg Christian (12-15). Neumann officially made the game a rout when it went on a 20-0 second-quarter run and opened a 55-21 halftime lead. Eight players had scored by that point as Isaac Beiter fed Andrew Keeler for a buzzer-beating layup.
Just two minutes into the third quarter, Neumann inflicted the mercy rule. The Knights really could do no wrong, making 26 of 34 first-half shots, many layups, while smothering Harrisburg Christian and forcing 12 first-half turnovers.
"What we stressed all week was keep your focus," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "We just felt if we came out and did what we had to do and didn't come out sloppy or slow we'd be fine."
By the time the starters were removed with Neumann up 69-28 in the third quarter, Johnson had nearly outscored Harrisburg Christian by himself. The dynamic junior scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dealt 8 assists while going 12 for 12 from the field. Together, he and reserve forward Ryan Reid (14 points) were 19 for 19 from the field.
Neumann moved the ball well and dissected the defense. The Knights dealt 28 assists and had 20 by halftime. Jordan Cole had six of those in addition to making four steals. Richard Allen scored 12 points, Tyree Vidal grabbed six rebounds and made four steals and the bench played well. Twelve Neumann players scored and Isaac Beiter, Keeler and Cody Forsburg scored seven points in the first half's closing minute.
"We weren't being selfish at all and we were distributing the ball well and moving it around," forward Noah Beiter said. "It was nice to get that big lead at first. I like these kind of games where you can just get in and get out. I'm, not taking away anything from them but I'm just glad we had an easier game than last year."
A year ago, Neumann overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit and beat Mahanoy Area in the first round on Vidal's buzzer-beater. No such dramatics were needed this time as the Knights made 20 of their first 25 shots. The bench made a nice impact, producing 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Players like Isaac Beiter, Forsburg, Anderson and Raquan Mars also showed that as bright as the present is, the future does not look too bad either.
"This way was better (than last year)," Johnson said. "Coach didn't want it to have to come down to the last shot again. Our main focus was to go out there and make it a blowout."
Noah Beiter made a huge impact. The tenacious forward guarded forward Conner Shroyer who was averaging 24.7 points and 13 rebounds per game. The junior already has topped 1,000 points, but when Beiter defended him he went 0 for 7 from the floor and grabbed only two rebounds. That defense was vital to Neumann breaking the game open early.
"Coach told me that he was averaging around 25 points per game so I got excited when he told me I was going to guard him," Beiter said. "I was prepared for him and I just tried to keep him from going right and shooting 3s. I tried to get up on him and stop him from doing what he could do and it worked out.
"I just do my role. Whatever my team needs me to do I do."
That is a mentality shared by the entire Neumann team and is a big reason it has won more games than any team since the 2000 squad that went 26-4. That also has helped this team captivate a large fan base that started filling up Montoursville's gym an hour before tip-off. A huge section of Neumann elementary and junior high students made their presence felt all game and roared with each good play.
To those youngsters, these are more than just varsity basketball players. They are their role models, the ones they hope to someday emulate.
"That's hopefully what we're doing is building other people's interest," Petcavage said. "This year at the Little Knights we had a lot more people show up which I think is a sign that there are some younger kids that are getting caught up in the frenzy and that's a good thing."
So is this team.
HARRISBURG CHRISTIAN (38)
Connor Shroyer 3 4-5 10, Scott Gaffey 5 2-2 14, John Underkoffler 3 0-0 8, David Yeckley 2 0-1 4, Tate Ducker 0 0-0 0, Matt Barringer 0 0-0 0, Maachi Clark 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 6-8 38.
Alize Johnson 12 1-2 25, Jordan Cole 2 0-0 5, Richard Allen 6 0-0 12, Tyree Vidal 3 0-1 6, Noah Beiter 1 0-0 2, Ryan Reid 7 0-0 14, Andrew Keeler 1 0-0 2, Isaac Beiter 3 0-0 6, Otis Anderson 1 1-2 3, Ra-quan Mars 2 0-0 4, Cody Forsburg 1 0-0 3, Andrew Roman 0 0-0 0, Dominic Marrozzo 1 0-0 2. Totals 40 2-5 84.
H. Christian11 10 7 10-38
Neumann24 31 14 15-84
3-pointers: H. Christian 4 (Gaffey, Underkoffler); Neumann 2 (Cole, Forsburg).
Records: Neumann 24-2. Harrisburg Christian 12-15.