NEPA Sports Nation

AH turns back Pocono Mt. West, sets up game vs. Imhotep Charter

Pictured above: Robby Lucas looks to score against Pocono Mountain West. (Tony Callaio Photo)

HAZLETON – Abington Heights put together the game’s biggest run in the first half, then turned back a series of Pocono Mountain West surges in the second half Wednesday night for a 61-56 victory in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 5A boys basketball second-round game.

“Coach told us before the game that they were going to be aggressive and they were going to make a run,” said Robby Lucas, one of four Abington Heights players to score in double figures. “It was just important that we kept our heads in it and I think we did a good job of that.”

Abington Heights had some difficulties with the Pocono Mountain West pressure, but each time it settled back down and answered. The Comets prepared for that pressure by going against seven defenders in practice.

“We were ready for that swarm and the double teams,” Lucas said. “We were prepared for all of it. You just have to make good passes.”

When they did, the Comets passed another test and advanced to face their biggest of the season.

Abington Heights will play District 12 champion Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia (27-3) Friday at 7 p.m. at the Easton Middle School.

Imhotep Charter, which has won eight state titles since 2006, plays a national-level schedule and is led by 6-foot-7 Kentucky commit Justin Edwards. The Panthers played opponents from New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey in the regular season before returning to concentrating on in-state opponents and winning their first two state games by a total of 88 points.

Abington Heights reached the game against the state’s top-ranked team behind 18 points from Ryan Nealon, 14 from Will Marion and 11 each from Mason Fedor and Lucas.

Fedor also grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 4 shots.

Pocono Mountain West was led by Adrian Brito with 15 points and JuJu Pagan with 14.

Pagan twice gave Pocono Mountain West four-point leads in the first quarter. He hit a 3-pointer off an in-bounds play midway through the quarter to make it 10-6, then converted a reverse layup for a 14-10 advantage with 1:43 remaining.

Soon after, the Comets started a stretch in which they held the Panthers scoreless for 6:01.

During that time, Abington Heights scored the last four points of the first quarter and the first seven of the second.

The 11-point streak put the Comets ahead to stay and opened a 24-16 lead midway through the second quarter.

Zach Brister started the run with a layup off the press break, then Marion scored on a drive for a 17-16 lead after one quarter.

The Comets showed their shooting versatility while expanding the lead.

Nealon turned an offensive rebound into two points with a 12-footer, Marion pulled up for 3-pointer in transition and Lucas hit a 17-footer to complete the run.

Brito scored the first four points of the second half on a putback and by beating the press to pull the Panthers within 31-30.

Fedor turned a drive into a three-point play to restart the Abington Heights offense, which scored 21 points over a six-minute stretch of the third quarter.

Lucas had seven points during that time while Nealon added six and Fedor five. Nealon hit two 3-pointers while Lucas and Marion made one each to support the scoring surge.

The Comets shot 8-for-17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range for the game.

Abington Heights took its biggest lead on a back-door layup by Nealon with 7:30 left at 54-43.

The Panthers charged back, getting as close as 58-56 after Kyon Coles made a 3-pointer off a Pagan dribble drive with 3:33 left and Jonathan Mateo hit another with 1:37 remaining.

“We were able to adjust to it at the end and get past it,” Marion, who had seven assists, said of Pocono Mountain West’s pressure.

Nealon scored the game’s last three points to secure the win. He got a layup with 44 seconds left when Abington Heights broke through the Pocono Mountain West press, then made the front end of a one-and-one with 21 seconds left.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was created from the reporting of Paul Gerrity.

Follow us on social media