Truman sophomore Gabe Gipli (42, right) and Jeff Nixon, left, defend Neshaminy junior Chris Arcidiacono in Suburban One League boys basketball action Friday night in Langhorne. (J.S. Garber – For 21st-Century Media)
LANGHORNE – After 32 minutes of action, the Skins’ Suburban One National League (SONL) battle with visiting Harry S Truman came down to one last shot by Neshaminy junior Anthony Papeo.
If the shot drops, the duel goes to overtime where the Tigers could very well have seen a game in which they led by nine points with a minute and a half left in regulation get away.
Fortunately for Truman, the ball clanked off the rim, helping the Tigers even their record at 2-2.
“This win was huge,” said Truman head coach Byron Conover. “You can’t afford to fall to 1-3 – not in this league – and hope to stay in the (playoff) hunt.”
While the coach was pleased his team came out with a win, he was not happy with the way the Tigers played in the final minute.
“Not happy with the execution late in the game,” said Conover. “These guys are upperclassmen, seniors – they’ve been through the wars before.
“We tell them when it gets to that, they’re playing against the clock. I don’t know what they were doing; they got caught up in the moment.”
For four quarters, Neshaminy junior Chris Arcidiacono – who led all scorers with 35 points – dazzled the many who packed the Fred Gerst Gymnasium with one acrobatic basket after another. His four field goals including a 3-pointer in the first period were enough to put the Skins up by four points after the first quarter, a lead Neshaminy took into the intermission.
After the break, the Tigers started creating turnovers and hitting their shots.
“We started taking advantage of the turnovers and converting,” explained Conover. “We haven’t been doing that the past couple of games –at Abington, against Lincoln.
“I told them, ‘we gotta get this one.’”
A 19-point third quarter – sparked by a pair of field goals by senior Danell Snelling, two more by sophomore Zierr Reid, and three by leading scorer Kelechi Ogbonna, who hit one of three 3-pointers in the period for HST – put Truman up 42-41 entering the final frame.
The Tigers expanded that lead to 59-50 on a layup by sophomore Gabe Gipli, then nearly gave the game away on missed free throws and turnovers.
Neshaminy senior Mark Gentry started the comeback with a jumper and Arcidiacono did the rest, hitting a jump shot of his own, a pair of free throws – he was 12-for-14 from the line for the game – and a driving acrobatic layup that left him sprawled out on the hardwood and also drew the Skins within three points with 30 seconds remaining.
Gipli then missed his second 1-and-1 chance at the foul line in the fourth quarter then Snelling – Truman’s best defender – fouled out with 23 seconds remaining, opening the door just a little more for Neshaminy.
Just when Tigers fans began to think all was lost, Arcidiacono missed the back end of a pair of free throws. Truman gave the ball right back to the home team however, with Gipli and Nixon fighting for the rebound and getting called or traveling.
Gentry missed on his next shot for the Skins however and Papeo was flagged for a reaching foul, sending Reid to the foul line for two. If the sophomore sinks the pair, the battle is over. Even if he makes one, it forces Neshaminy to go for three on its last possession.
Reid – who sparked the Tigers with nine second-half points off the bench – missed both.
With less than 10 seconds remaining, the Skins stormed up the court and just as Arcidiacono was preparing to release a shot near the left side of the 3-point, arc, Neshaminy head coach Mark Tingle called for a timeout to draw up one last play.
To Truman’s credit, they didn’t allow the Skins an easy layup off the inbound pass, something the Tiger defense had done a couple of times earlier in the game. They also shut down Arcidiacono’s path to the basket and the 6-3 junior was forced to whip the ball out to Papeo, who very nearly sent this one to overtime.
When the ball dropped off the rim, Truman could finally take a breath of collective relief, though not until.
“When we got in the locker room, our coach said if he would have made that shot we would have been in some trouble,” said Nixon. “We wanted to close it out so I was just praying that it didn’t go in.”
“Nine times out of ten, he makes that shot,” added Arcidiacono. “Next time, he’ll get it.”
Sparking the Tigers in the fourth quarter were Ogbonna, who hit a pair of field goals and made good on 3-of-4 foul shots. Reid also hit a pair of shots from the floor, though he wasn’t the only player that energized Truman off the bench. After hitting a 3-point play in the second quarter and a 3-pointer in the third period, he started the Tigers off with a layup in the final frame.
For his part, Nixon, who had just a pair of free throws to his credit entering the last quarter, hit a one-handed jumper from the left side of the baseline to put Truman up by six then added a pair of made shots from the foul line to hold the Tigers’ edge at the same margin.
Two minutes into the fourth period, after an Ogbonna miss and a Neshaminy rebound, Jeff also came up with a big steal in the offensive zone that gave Kelechi the chance to make good on a layup, a shot that put Truman on top for good.
Moments later, Ogbonna repeated the same type of theft then fed Reid for a fast-break bucket that expanded the Tigers’ fourth-period lead to four and sent them on their way to their sixth win of the season.
Truman 61, Neshaminy 59
(Jan. 6 at Neshaminy)
NESHAMINY (4-5, 2-3: SONL) — Chris Arcidiacono 35, Mark Gentry 2, Anthony Papeo 2, Zach Tredway 9, Anthony Verrecchio 11; TOTALS — 20 18-21 59.
TRUMAN (6-3, 2-2: SONL) — Kelechi Ogbonna 21, Danell Snelling 8, Jeff Nixon 6, Marvel Rogers 8, Gabe Gipli 9, Zierr Reid 9; TOTALS — 23 11-18 61.
3-POINT GOALS: N — Arcidiacono; T — Ogbonna 2, Rogers, Reid.
Neshaminy 16 11 14 18 – 59
Truman 12 11 19 19 – 61