NEPA Sports Nation

Defense fuels Old Forge runaway

Anthony Mucciolo

By Tom Robinson,

OLD FORGE – Old Forge broke the game open with 25 points over the final 5:05, a 157-point pace if maintained over a full game.

Yet, the decisiveness with which the Blue Devils ultimately advanced with a 63-36, District 2 Class 3A boys basketball victory over visiting Lakeland, was all about the defense.

“It all starts with defense,” said Anthony Mucciolo, who led the offense with 22 points.

Old Forge held Lakeland to five first-quarter points and never allowed Lakeland an offensive rebound until 1:32 remaining, after both teams had pulled all their starters.

Mucciolo, Tyler Pepsin and Joey Macciocco all made steals in the game-ending flurry and had at least four in the game.

Old Forge limited Lakeland to a single 3-pointer in 10 tries and 36 percent shooting overall, but what was most important was the Chiefs getting only one shot per every two possessions until the reserves finished things up.

The only Old Forge blocked shot of the night figured prominently in launching the 25-3 outburst to end the game.

Lakeland closed within 30-29 with 1:29 left in the third quarter and was trailing 38-33 after Talin Vitzakovitch scored on the fastbreak with 5:22 left.

Old Forge scored 17 of the game’s next 18 points and needed less than 2½ minutes to do it.

Matt Kuckla, who at that point was 0-for-2 on 3-pointers with two points for the game, spotted up for an open 3-pointer from the left wing.

Kuckla nailed that shot, blocked a shot on the other end and hit his second 3-pointer, all within an 18-second span, for a quick 44-33 advantage that led to a Lakeland timeout.

“Open shot, I’m taking it,” Kuckla said of the first 3-pointer.

When he wound up open in transition at the exact same spot, after the block, there was no doubt.

“That was money,” Kuckla said. “Especially after making the first one.”

It was Mucciolo’s turn next.

He needed just 12 seconds to score twice.

After scoring on a drive, Mucciolo anticipated a pass, stole the ball in the backcourt and went right back to the basket.

The only problem is once he was airborne, Mucciolo had some Chiefs with which to contend. He floated across the lane and put up a double-pumping reverse layup as he passed under the rim from left to right.

“I knew I had to finish,” Mucciolo said. “ … I saw him jump and I had to adjust real quick. I went up, under and finished.”

When he did, Mucciolo gave Old Forge a 50-34 lead and the rout was on.

Chiefs coach Trevor Tellip called another timeout, but there was no stopping the Blue Devils now.

Macciocco’s steal and Mucciolo’s pass led to an Anthony Cole three-point play for 7 points in 27 seconds.

Mucciolo scored again before Lakeland got its only basket during the closing run.

Pepsin’s steal led to a Mucciolo putback and the starters were done after building a 57-36 lead with 1:52 left.

Mucciolo had 4 steals and 3 assists to go along with his 22 points.

Macciocco finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.

Pepsin led the defense with six steals while also contributing seven points and three assists.

The third-seeded Blue Devils (17-6) advance to play at second-seeded Mid Valley (18-5) in Friday night’s semifinals.

Lakeland finishes 11-12.

Billy Hazelton led the Chiefs with nine points.

Follow us on social media