Knights push tempo

Heading into St. John Neumann’s first state playoff game against Greenwood, Neumann head coach Paul Petcavage knew Greenwood would like to dictate the game’s tempo and slow the game down and ugly it up. The undefeated Knights (28-0) wouldn’t let that happen as Neumann controlled the glass and the game’s speed in its 64-50 win over Greenwood.

“We intended on doing that. We said ‘We gotta push the ball,'” Petcavage said. “Our conditioning is a big plus for us right now, we’ve worked hard on it all year. Coach (Leroy) Baer’s really helped us push that level up to a high level.”

With Neumann’s speed and its plethora of ball handlers, it can easily get out on the break and score before the other team can before the other team can even get into its defense. All night Neumann had 3-on-2, 3-on-1 and 2-on-1 advantages in the transition game that Greenwood defenders never had a chance to slow down Neumann’s open court attack.

Neumann also used quick outlet passes that allowed it to get easy transition baskets.

One of the most impressive outlet passes of the night came from Richard Allen, who received the ball at Greenwood’s foul line and tossed it to Alize Johnson, who was standing at his own foul line. The ball was a little high so Johnson used his 6-foot-6 frame to leap over two Greenwood defenders and tip it to a streaking Njoku-Ibe Amanze for a thunderous two-handed slam that brought the Neumann fans to their feet.

Grabbing loose balls and hauling in rebounds was another reason Neumann was so dominant in the open court as it had 34 rebounds.

“That triggers it…We’ve worked again on that for how many months and just getting the outlet, kick it and go and push,” Petcavage said. “We can do better at it, sometimes I don’t think we push it enough. We look at guys down the floor and not kick it as opposed to pushing it. I don’t care if we get a layup or not, it makes the other team run and adjust and everytime we do that we wear them down a litte bit.”

Johnson (14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals) wore down Greenwood all night and was Neumann’s engine in its full court attack.

“One of the things we wanted to do was just pressure the ball,” said Johnson. “So we can get fast breaks and do what we do best which is push the ball.”