Lynch, Anderson slow down Sullivan County in victory

St. John Neumann’s Kevin Anderson bats away the ball as Sullivan County’s John Saxe tries to shoot during a boys basketball game on Friday night at St. John Neumann. (KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette) KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Jaiden Lynch scored early and often Friday night. He scored inside, he hit jump shots and he drained a 3-pointer.

And that strong offensive skill set might not even be Lynch’s biggest strength. Simply put, Lynch has become a defensive stopper. In a season where he has put together so many strong defensive performances, Lynch might have delivered his masterpiece Friday at the Terry J. Gramling Gymnasium.

Lynch shadowed Sullivan County point guard John Saxe, one of the district’s premier players, everywhere and did not let the talented player score against him. Lynch’s play was contagious as Neumann played stifling defense and won its 74th straight regular-season game, defeating Sullivan, 65-33.

“I know Neumann vs. Sullivan is a big game and I just wanted to come in and make a statement and show our defense is all that and we don’t want anyone to score on us,” Lynch said. “I think I’m one of the best defensive players in the area so every game I look to hold my defender to zero points. That’s just my mindset.”

It is a mindset that is serving Neumann well. Kevin Anderson dazzled again and recorded another triple-double while four players scored in double figures. Still, Lynch’s defense was the engine that powered Neumann (8-0, 4-0 Mid-Penn) as it overcame a slow offensive start and turned a seven-point advantage midway through the second quarter into a 31-8 halftime lead.

Lynch relentlessly hounded Saxe, who entered as the area’s third-leading scorer, and never really let him get open looks. Saxe finished with five assists, but Lynch’s ability to prevent him from scoring essentially caused the entire Sullivan offense to break down. Earlier this season, Lynch held York Country Day all-stater Dearius Brown to 13 points in a big win and he continues making a big impact on both ends. Neumann features an explosive offense but the defense has been outstanding and Lynch, who had 13 first-half points, has been leading that charge.

“It’s so nice going into a game knowing you have a defender that can play at that level and pretty much make it extremely difficult on the opponent’s best player,” Neumann coach Mike Kirby said. “Most times Jaiden was our defensive stopper last year, so he’s been in that role for a while now and he usually gets the best of the matchup.”

Sullivan (3-5, 2-1) played strong defense of its own and contained Neumann over the game’s opening 12 minutes. Sullivan, however, could never find an offensive rhythm and made just 3 of 24 first-half shots. Neumann heated up during the second-quarter’s last four minutes and a 14-0 run gave it a 23-point advantage. At one point, Sullivan missed 10 straight shots and could not capitalize on some of the good opportunities it created.

“Defensively I thought we executed our game plan very well when we weren’t being dumb on the offensive end and giving them run-out layups,” Sullivan coach Glenn Vaughan said. “When we made them play 5-on-5 I thought we were doing a good job defensively. Unfortunately, offensively we were just not there tonight. We missed a bunch of shots around the rim, we took some ill-advised shots and they make you pay for those mistakes.”

Anderson made Sullivan pay repeatedly. The two-time all-state guard presents a dilemma each game. Play him straight up and Anderson can potentially score at will. Double team him or play a junk defense and Anderson almost always finds the open man. That is the main reason Anderson leads the area in scoring and assists and it is making Neumann especially potent as the season continues.

Anderson still finished with a game-high 17 points, but also dealt 11 assists, grabbed 10 rebounds and made seven steals. Andrew Fish put together a good shooting performance and scored a career-high 14 points while Jaiden Cioffi scored 10 second-half points. Neumann already has three players averaging in double figures and both Fish and Anthony Marrazzo, who had 12 in the previous game, keep getting better, putting defenses in a precarious situation.

“A big part of it is Kevin Anderson is really good,” Vaughan said. “You have to make your choice whether you’re going to let him get his 30 or 35 points and hope the other guys don’t score more than 10 or you have to try and contain him and take him away a little bit.”

“That’s huge for us,” Lynch said. “We’re going to need that. It just can’t be Kevin or I scoring. It has to be everyone. They definitely stepped up and we look for them to keep improving as the season goes on.”

Cioffi, a sophomore forward, keeps making strides and is having a breakout season. Cioffi is an excellent defender and shook off a scoreless first half to score 10 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds, attacked the basket well and hit a 3-pointer.

Cioffi is one of three new Neumann starters this season. But he is growing into his role and looks like a potential standout. Last night he showed he is a pretty poised player as well.

“I feel good about him because the first half he was getting the shots but he couldn’t put it in the basket. That gets frustrating and I told him you don’t want to be defined by whatever happens at the offensive end,” Kirby said. “Get some rebounds, take somebody out on the other team and he did a great job on defense. That (offense) is gravy almost when you’re doing the other things, but some guys when they miss shots, it hurts at the other end and that didn’t happen. He got going and played a great second half.”

Alex Baumunk scored 11 points for Sullivan and Jon Pedro just missed a second straight double-double. The senior forward finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Sullivan made just 8 of 38 shots through the first three quarters and Neumann took a 51-21 lead into the fourth.

“I don’t think our defense was that bad,” Vaughan said. “We’re upset because we’re not used to giving up 65, but it was more about our offensive deficiencies that allowed them to score more.”

SULLIVAN (33)

John Saxe 1 0-6 2, Jon Pedro 3 0-0 9, Jordan Pedro 0 0-0 0, Alex Baumunk 4 0-0 11, Taylor Baldwin 1 0-0 2, Noah Brown 1 0-0 3, Spencer Gordner 1 0-0 2, Will Kiner 1 0-0 2, Dave Pardoe 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 0-6 33.

NEUMANN (65)

Kevin Anderson 7 2-3 17, Jaiden Lynch 7 1-2 16, Noah Persun 1 0-0 2, Jaiden Cioffi 4 1-4 10, Anthony Marrazzo 1 1-1 3, Andrew Fish 5 1-3 14, Dalton Gough 0 1-4 1, Malaki Parlante 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 7-17 65.

Sullivan    6 2 13 12 — 33

Neumann    13 18 20 14 — 65

3-point goals: Sullivan 7 (Pedro 3, Baumunk 3, Brown); Neumann 6 (Fish 3, Anderson, Lynch, Cioffi).

Records: Neumann (8-0, 4-0 Mid-Penn), Sullivan County (3-5, 3-1).

JV score: Sullivan, 51-44 (OT)

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