NEPA Sports Nation

Big fourth sends Dallas into final

Darius Wallace dribbles for Dallas vs. Nanticoke’s Jordan-Thomas (34) and Caleb Butczynski (1). (Tom Robinson Photo).

By Tom Robinson,

PLAINS TWP. – The fourth-quarter offensive numbers put up by Dallas were impressive.

As Mountaineers coach Mark Belenski was quick to put out, those numbers in many ways were a reflection of his team’s work on the other end of the floor.

Dallas limited Nanticoke to three field goals over the final 9:40 Thursday night while rallying for a 61-51 victory in a Wyoming Valley Conference Boys Basketball Tournament semifinal at Wilkes-Barre Area High School.

“They played well, but we played a little bit better,” Belenski said. “We pride ourselves on our defense.”

Belenski was particularly proud of that part of his team’s game in the fourth quarter after the Division 1 champion and defending tournament champion Mountaineers trailed for much of the first three quarters.

“We played better defense and we were able to keep them off the boards,” he said.

Dallas outscored Nanticoke, 25-11, over the last 9:40. Outrebounded 27-24 for three quarters, Dallas had a 7-3 advantage on the boards in the fourth.

The Mountaineers shot 8-for-12 from the floor in the fourth quarter, but their six successful drives to the basket were helped by four of them resulting from steals by the defense.

Dallas Shooting Comparison
 Field Goals3-PointersFree Throws
First Three Quarters16-for-48, 33.3%3-for-21, 14.3%5-for-  7,   71.4%
Fourth Quarter  8-for-12, 66.7%2-for-  3, 66.7%3-for-  3, 100.0%
Total24-for-60, 40.0%5-for-24, 20.8%8-for-10,   80.0%

Nanticoke led by as many as seven in the first and third quarters.

The Trojans were still in front, 40-36, when Ibn Jordan-Thomas converted an interior pass from Jaidyn Johnson with 1:40 left in the third.

Baskets by Mikey Cumbo and Darius Wallace forced a tie at the end of the quarter.

Cumbo’s scoop shot in the lane was the result of his own steal.

Nick Farrell’s dive on the floor to keep the ball alive and avoid a turnover resulted in Cumbo gaining possession and finding Wallace for an easy tying basket.

Wallace led Dallas with 19 points, including 9 in the fourth quarter when he did not miss a shot. He made all three shots from the floor and all three from the foul line, ending in a late dunk moments after a three-point play.

Michael Bufalino, who added 17 points, opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and hit another three minutes in as part of a seven-point streak and 18-4 run.

Dallas held Nanticoke without a field goal for 5:59 in the middle of the quarter.

Wallace, who also had four assists, finished 7-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and 3-for-3 at the line.

Bufalino led the team with 11 rebounds.

Cumbo scored 11 points, including 9 in the third quarter when Dallas was wiping out a halftime deficit.

Jude Nocito had 10 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.

Nanticoke got 17 points each from the inside combination of Jordan-Thomas and Johnson. Jordan-Thomas also had 11 rebounds, including 8 on offense. Johnson had three assists and two blocked shots.

Liam Mullery was 3-for-6 on 3-pointers to add nine points for the Trojans (15-8). Caleb Butczynski had four assists and two steals.

The Dallas victory sends up a meeting of division champions and No. 1 teams in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams.

Dallas will host the championship doubleheader, which starts with the Lake-Lehman and Holy Redeemer girls at 6 p.m.

The Mountaineers (20-3) are top-ranked Big School in the Super Six.

Holy Redeemer, the No. 1 Small School, has won 16 straight, has the district’s best overall record at 21-2 and has lost only to Class 6A teams from outside the district.

The coaches know each other well.

Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido served as an assistant for 13 years under Belenski, who coached back-to-back state championship teams in 2004 and 2005 at Bishop O’Reilly, which was among the schools merged to create Holy Redeemer.

“I love Paul and I love that program,” said Belenski, the first head coach when Holy Redeemer was formed. “He’s like a son to me. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”

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