NEPA Sports Nation

Royals stop Trojans for first place

Pictured above: Jacob Hunter

By Tom Robinson,

WILKES-BARRE – Jacob Hunter scored 18 points and Jeff Kozerski added 15 Thursday night while lifting Holy Redeemer over visiting Nanticoke and into the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 boys basketball lead with a 57-51 victory.

Hunter did damage from the line and Kozerski hurt the Trojans in the lane while lifting the No. 1 Small School boys team in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams into the top spot in the division standings. The defending champion Royals, who already lead the race for the top seed in the District 2 Class 3A playoffs, won their eighth straight to improve to 5-0 in the division and 13-2 overall.

Nanticoke, the No. 6 Big School, had a five-game winning streak broken. The Trojans fell to 5-1 and 10-6.

Hunter led the way with 18 points, taking the ball hard to the basket to set himself up for an 8-for-10 night on free throws.

Kozerski showed his strength in the post, facing a talented Nanticoke frontcourt and going 6-for-9 for 15 points.

“Definitely stepping up in terms of physicality,” Kozerski said of his responsibility in the first-place battle.

Hunter got Holy Redeemer’s high-octane offense in gear after it managed just 10 points for more than 11 minutes to start the game.

Once Hunter hit the first of his free throws to start an 11-0, second-quarter run, the Royals averaged more than two points per minute the rest of the night rather than under one a minute up to that point.

Hunter had five points in the 11-0 run to a 21-13 lead with 1:36 left in the half. He drove for one basket, then went coast-to-coast to draw a foul and sink two free throws.

“So far this season, we’ve started kind of slow,” Hunter said. “That’s been one of our biggest problems.”

Slowing the Royals down once they get running has been a problem for many opponents.

Nanticoke was no different.

The Trojans had a 32-23 advantage on the boards, including 13 offensive rebounds, but once the Royals got control, they took off.

Darryl Wright had five assists.

Zach Perta, who was 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter while helping turn back a Nanticoke comeback attempt, chipped in nine points, three assists and two steals.

Wright, Perta and Hunter also helped the Royals commit just 5 turnovers while getting off 40 shots.

“Repetition and practice,” Hunter said. “Coach (Paul Guido) does a great job of simulating the game as best he can. That just gives us all the confidence to take care of the ball and still go at that fast pace.”

Nanticoke got 17 points each from Liam Mullery and Jaidyn Johnson. Ibn Jordan-Thomas scored 10 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.

Mullery went 5-for-9 from 3-point range in the second half after Nanticoke did not hit a shot from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Nanticoke jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Holy Redeemer scored six straight points to take its first lead on Kozerski’s post move with 1:40 left in the first quarter.

Johnson’s putback gave Nanticoke a 9-8 lead after one quarter.

After Kozerski scored from the wing for a 10-9 lead early in the second quarter, the Trojans converted two more rebounds for the 13-10 lead they held midway through the quarter.

Holy Redeemer led the rest of the way following its 11-point streak run.

Kozerski had seven points while Hunter and Wright each hit 3-pointers in a 15-2, third-quarter run to a 38-23 lead.

The lead peaked at 42-25 on a Kozerski 12-footer on the first possession of the fourth quarter.

With Johnson and Mullery scoring nine points each, the Trojans closed within seven with 3:05, 1:06 and 0:17 left. They never got closer until Mullery’s last 3-pointer with three seconds left set the final margin.

Nanticoke was hurt by fouls, including five offensive, throughout the game.

Gavin Turak and Caleb Butczynski both fouled out and Holy Redeemer was 22-for-29 at the line compared to Nanticoke’s 3-for-7.

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