WILLIAMSPORT - Just two starters returned and Greenwood hardly looked like an elite team last summer.
There the Wildcats were, however, playing in the Class A state tournament once again Friday at Williamsport High School. Greenwood lost, 64-50, to undefeated St. John Neumann, but the journey stood out more than the final destination.
"I'm very pleased with them. The kids worked really hard," Greenwood coach Kent Houser said. "They really improved from where we were in the summer. I really wasn't anticipating us being here but the kids have worn the jersey well."
Sentinel photo by BEN BRIGANDI
Greenwood’s Seth Ferguson (10) and Adam Harrison (24) attempt to steal the ball from St. John Neumann’s Alize Johnson (24) during the PIAA Class A boys basketball opening round Friday in Williamsport.
Adam Harrison scored 15 points and Tyler Fegley added 13 in their final games. Both heated up in the second quarter when Greenwood (18-8) cut a 13-point deficit to 26-20 midway through the second quarter.
Right when Greenwood thought an upset might be possible, a Neumann freshman and reserve changed everything. They did not fill up the stat sheet Friday at Williamsport, but Kevin Anderson and Ryan Reid perfectly chose their spots and made big impacts.
Anderson found Reid for a short jumper before Reid made a steal seconds later that produced two foul shots and just like that, the Knights (28-0) were up 16 at the half and en route to the second round for a third straight year.
"That gave us a lot of momentum," Anderson said. "I knew there would come a time like this so I just stepped up and did my best."
Neumann remained undefeated and earned a second round matchup with Phil-Mont Christian, a 76-65 winner over New Media. That game will be Tuesday at a time and place to be determined.
Following a timeout, Anderson broke down the defense and found Reid who swished the jumper as two defenders converged. Seconds later, Reid made a hustling steal and kicked the ball to Alize Johnson who was fouled and hit two shots. It was just the burst Neumann needed and Greenwood did not pull closer than 16 until the game's final seconds.
"That was huge," Johnson said. "We wanted to go off right off the bat and get up, but they crept up on us. That (run) helped. That got us the win."
Johnson helped too. Actually, that is quite an understatement.
The all-state center continued his dominant season and dazzled with his versatility. Johnson scored 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dealt seven assists, made five steals and blocked three shots while hitting his last 13 shots from the field and the line. He scored 11 third-quarter points and helped Neumann extend its lead to 22.
"We really don't want to lose right now. Being one and done has us motivated even more to go out there and get the win," Johnson said. "I tell them in practice if we want to win states we have to work hard. We go out and condition hard and we all push each other."
Greenwood only led twice early in the first quarter before Neumann ended it with a 12-0 run and took a 13-point lead. Nasza Short scored five points during that time and the Knights hit 9-of-13 shots.
Neumann's bench came up big too with Njoku-Ibe Amanze scoring eight points and grabbing eight rebounds. Amanze threw down a powerful two-hand dunk in the opening quarter and combined with Reid and Kamaal Burkholder to give the Knights a nice spark. Burkholder blocked a shot, made two steals and played strong defense.
"The bench came up big," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "It's a nice luxury to have Kamaal because he can guard a big guy, a guard, anyone really. He brings an energy to the team as well and the entire bench was big today."
The Knights hit 16-of-26 first-half shots and Anderson was instrumental to the success, doing a nice job facilitating the offense. The freshman moved to point guard midway through the half when starter Richard Allen hurt his finger and he had four assists by halftime. Anderson also hit a 3-pointer to snap a Greenwood run and added four rebounds.
"Kevin did a great job and that's the beauty of having him in there. He can play the off-guard and he can step in and play the point guard when he has to," Petcavage said. "He will distribute the ball and he's tough to guard. He has that little floater going and he's hard to contain."
Allen returned in the second half and played well, scoring six of his eight points while adding three assists and three steals. Greenwood pulled within 16 midway through the third quarter but Cody Forsburg ended the run, taking a pass from Johnson and hitting a 3-pointer. Less than a minute later, Petcavage cleared the bench with Neumann up 19.
The Knights now turn their attention to the second round. They are seeking to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
"We're very motivated," Anderson said. "We know the step is there in front of us and we know we can get there if we work as a team."