NEPA Sports Nation

Holy Redeemer speeds into final

Pictured above: Zach Perta.

By Tom Robinson,

PLAINS – Wilkes-Barre Area put together an excellent third quarter in Jim Lavan’s official head coaching debut in the inaugural Wilkes-Barre Area Tip-Off Tournament Friday night.

The problem for the Wolfpack was that Holy Redeemer had already been just as sharp for two quarters.

Holy Redeemer’s three returning starters from last season’s state semifinalists combined to lead the Royals to a 26-point halftime lead on the way to a 56-45 victory and a berth in Saturday night’s championship game.

The Royals will face Bethlehem Freedom Saturday at 7 in the championship game.

Host Wilkes-Barre Area is facing Mid Valley in the 5:30 third-place game.

The speedy backcourt combination of Zach Perta and Darryl Wright and the brute force of Jeff Kozerski in the paint were too much for the Wolfpack early.

Holy Redeemer scored 20 points in the first quarter then held Wilkes-Barre Area without a field goal for the last seven minutes of the second quarter for a 39-13 halftime lead.

Perta scored a game-high 16 points. Wright had seven points, seven rebounds five assists and five steals.

“Certainly one of our strengths is that we definitely have quickness,” Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido said.

Kozerski stepped into a larger role, going 7-for-10 from the floor while scoring 14 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. The Royals need more point production following the graduation of 1,500-point scorer Justice Shoats and 1,000-point scorer Matt Prociak.

“I was really thrilled with him,” Guido said. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for him. … We definitely talked about last year, he was a screener, a rebounder and a kick-out guy, throwing it back out to Justice and Matt.

“We told him he has to make a little adjustment in his game. We said, ‘you’ve got to score for us, those rebounds you get, instead of kicking them out, put them up and we’re going to bounce the ball down into you in the post sometimes’.”

Between Kozerski’s strong inside moves and the drives by Perta and Wright, the Royals got to the basket. Perta supplemented that with two 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes, including the team’s first points of the season with a shot from the corner at the end of the game-opening, 31-second possession.

Wilkes-Barre Area went on a 21-2 run to start the third quarter until Kozerski’s spin move in the post accounted for Holy Redeemer’s first basket of the second half with 40 seconds left in the quarter.

Kaprie Cottle went 5-for-5, hitting two 3-pointers, while scoring all of his team-high 12 points in the quarter.

Lavan worked a deep rotation throughout.

Dave Jannuzzi hit two 3-pointers while scoring eight points.

Naquan Johnson had seven points and seven rebounds. Warrithi Oseni had four points, six rebounds and three assists. Karree Harmen-Ascerno was 2-for-3 while providing four points, five rebounds and a team-leading four assists off the bench.

“It was like I brought another team out in the second half,” Lavan said. “Redeemer came and did what they do. They punched us in the face in the first half and showed their experience; showed their talent in that first half.

“To take something out of it, I think I’ve got a group that wants to fight; that wants to win; that wants to dig in; that wants to do the things we want them to do. You saw that in the second half.”

The Wolfpack got as close as seven late in the third, but Kozerski scored three baskets in a span of 3:15 in the middle of the fourth quarter to push the lead back to 15 and put the game away.

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