As St. John Neumann's Alize Johnson was dribbling on the perimeter, he constantly drew two and three Mansfield defenders. With Mansfield's undivided attention on Johnson, it gave the opportunity for Johnson's teammates to slip behind the defense and as a former point guard, Johnson could dissect the defense.
Johnson's brother, Nasza Short was on the receiving end of many of those passes as Short scored a career-high 28 points and Johnson notched a triple-double as Neumann defeated Mansfield 74-62 Tuesday night in the District 4 A semifinals at the Magic Dome. Neumann (26-0) will play Sullivan County for the third straight year for district gold while Mansfield will play Galeton in the third place game.
"When he (Johnson) drives mostly everybody comes at him," said Short. "Everybody's attracted to him and we just cut back there and get the open looks."
Alize Johnson of St. John Neumann scores as Jarrod Burd (3) of Mansfield defends Tuesday at Williamsport. In back is Neumann’s Kamaal Burkholder (25) and Jordan Williams (11) of Mansfield.
Short did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 22 points and grabbing three rebounds and help turn up the defensive pressure that forced 14 Mansfield turnovers. He and reserve guard Kamaal Burkholder (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) led a 17-5 run that put Neumann up 50-37 and the lead never got within single digits again. Burkholder was a catalyst in helping Neumann pull away and get out on the break where the Knights are nearly unstoppable.
Johnson continued his dominance and is most certainly a lock for all-state. He finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and two steals. Johnson dominated the first half when Neumann was struggling as he had 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists. In the second quarter, Johnson had a hand in all 12 Neumann points, scoring 10 and assisting on a Short lay-up. As Mansfield began to hone-in on Johnson, he became a distributor and looked like a point guard, a position Johnson started as a freshman. Johnson started the third with three straight assists and would add four more in the fourth.
Possibly Johnson's most jaw-dropping play of the game was a dunk over Chandler Correll that put Neumann up 71-53, a fitting way to end Johnson's dominance.
Mansfield came out and got down by six early, but never panicked. The Tigers methodically worked their offense inside-out and hit four threes in the first half. Mansfield also forced 10 first half Neumann turnovers and was only down 31-30 at the half.
But Neumann's second half ball pressure sped up the game and got Mansfield out of its half court game. Bo Burleigh continued playing well inside scoring 22 points and grabbing five rebounds. Bryce Zaparzynski played well off the bench scoring 11 points.
"They competed, they played hard, they followed the game plan," Mansfield coach Kipper Burleigh said of his players. "We tried to slow the game down, we tried to make it a half court game, we tried to go inside, we tried to take away their lay-ups and we just didn't do a good job of doing that."
Mansfield will play Galeton and Neumann will play Sullivan County for the District title. It will be the third time Neumann and Sullivan County have met in the championship, Neumann won last year and Sullivan won in 2012.
"It's a great rilvary," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "I think it will be a good, competitive game by both teams. The fans will be rocking the place because Sullivan comes loaded with people and we do as well. It should be quite the game wherever it is."
Bo Burleigh 9 3-8 22, Brady Andrews 3 3-6 10, Jarrod Burd 4 1-3 9, Bryce Zaparzynski 4 0-0 11, J.P. Shaw 0 6-6 6, Chandler Correll 2 0-0 5. Totals 21 13-23 62.
Alize Johnson 10 4-5 24, Richard Allen 3 1-3 7, Kevin Anderson 2 0-2 5, Nasza Short 12 4-6 28, Noah Beiter 0 0-0 0, Njoku-Ibe Amanze 0 0-0 0, Kamaal Burkholder 5 0-0 10, Ryan Reid 0 0-0 0, Cody Forsburg 0 0-2 0. Totals 32 9-18 74.
Mansfield 13 17 11 21- 62
Neumann 19 12 23 20- 74
3-pointers: Mansfield 6 (Zaparzynski 3, Burleigh, Andrews, Correll); Neumann 1 (Burkholder)
Records: Neumann (26-0); Mansfield (17-8)
Next game: Neumann vs. Sullivan County in District Championship (Time and place TBA); Mansfield vs. Galeton (Time and place TBA)