NEPA Sports Nation

Antoniacci’s big finish carries Vikings past first-place Crusaders

By Tom Robinson,

TAYLOR – Frankie Antoniacci was already having a big game Tuesday night.

Then, he took over down the stretch, lifting Riverside over visiting Holy Cross, 40-38, handing the Crusaders their first Lackawanna League boys basketball loss and complicating the Division 3 race.

The Holy Cross loss and Mid Valley’s 63-42 win at Carbondale created a tie at the top of the division standings as the Crusaders and Spartans prepare to meet Friday at Mid Valley. Riverside maintained the slightest of title hopes by improving to 5-3.

Antoniacci made it all happen.

In the game’s final 1:18, Antoniacci hit the tie-breaking 3-pointer, beat the defense deep on an in-bounds play for an important insurance basket, cleared two defensive rebounds and blocked a shot.

“I’ve challenged Frankie to step up and be our leader and be our guy who shows up in the big moments,” Riverside coach Josh Aniska said. “This game was the biggest moment of our season so far.

“I’m so happy that he took that challenge personally.”

When the game slowed down in the fourth quarter, it was Antoniacci who scored the only seven Riverside points.

The Vikings fell behind, 9-0, to start the game, worked their way back before the first quarter ended, then turned the offense over, almost exclusively to Antoniacci.

Antoniacci scored 15 of the team’s last 17 points and 20 of the 24 second-half points the Vikings used to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit. After the first quarter, he scored 26 of 31 Riverside points.

“He’s on our leader,” Aniska said. “I told him, we’re only going to be as successful as he leads us to be.

“He embraces that role on the team and he proved it on the court tonight.”

Riverside took the lead six times in the game – on four of the seven lead changes and on two ties. Antoniacci put them in front five of those times.

“It’s my senior year,” Antoniacci said. “I’m just really giving it everything I’ve got for my team.”

Connor McNally added eight points and eight assists as Riverside, the No. 4 Small School boys team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams, improved to 12-5 overall.

No. 2 Holy Cross had a nine-game winning streak broken and dropped to 12-4.

Gabe Gonzales led the Crusaders with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Hayden Hosie had eight points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Holy Cross committed just one turnover until trying to execute an in-bounds play with 2.1 seconds left in the first half and finished the game with just four.

The Crusaders, however, were plagued by shooting woes. Holy Cross shot 3-for-21 (14.3 percent) from the floor in the second half and 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) on 3-pointers for the game.

Cullen Moran had the game’s first five points to key the 9-0 Holy Cross start.

Antoniacci’s 3-pointer from the right wing opened the second-quarter scoring and gave Riverside its only lead of the first half, 12-11.

The Crusaders answered with their longest run, creating their largest lead at 25-12 with 14 straight points.

Antoniacci tightened things up by scoring five points in the first minute of the third quarter on a three-point play and a putback.

“We started executing our offensive sets, trying to get on a roll,” said Antoniacci, who finished 11-for-17 from the floor. “We just locked in defensively, especially in the second half, then cleaned up our rebounding.”

The Vikings outscored the Crusaders, 17-6, in the third quarter on 13 points by Antoniacci and 4 by Connor Monahan.

Once tied, Riverside, which also protected the ball well, slowed the pace significantly. The Vikings committed just three second-half turnovers while holding on to the ball through lengthy possessions.

There was no scoring in the first 3:47 of the fourth quarter as the teams combined to miss nine shots before Antoniacci converted a rebound into a 35-33 lead.

Hosie came right back with an elbow jumper to tie it 23 seconds later, then the teams went another 2:32 without scoring as Riverside waited for the right shot.

“We executed and got the right shots and the open look that we wanted in key possessions,” Aniska said. “And, in that moment, we knocked down shots.”

Following a timeout, the Vikings got the ball in to Matthew Godlewski in the low post on the right side.

Godlewski looked to the opposite side, spotting Antoniacci in position on the left wing to bury the 3-pointer that completed his 5-for-7 night from long range and put Riverside ahead to stay with 1:18 left.

Antoniacci’s layup with 15 seconds left created a five-point cushion, but Holy Cross made things interesting in the final 10 seconds when Gonzales hit all three shots after being fouled behind the arc and the Crusaders forced a turnover with 6.8 seconds left.

Holy Cross had rebounding advantages of 8-0 offensively and 22-16 total in the first half, but Riverside reduced that offensive advantage to 5-4 and led 13-10 overall on the boards in the second half. When they could not take the game’s last rebound away cleanly, the Vikings tied it up for a held ball off the last Crusaders miss with four-tenths of a second remaining.

“Our emphasis is always rebounding,” Aniska said. “We get outrebounded every game. It’s something that we work on.

“ … Games we lose, we give up a lot of offensive rebounds. In games we win, we tighten it up and limit offensive rebounds.”

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