YORK >> A 20-point fourth-quarter deficit was trimmed down to 10, but Wissahickon couldn’t quite catch high-powered Northeastern in the first round of states Friday night.
The Bobcats broke the game open in the second quarter and had a variety of weapons fire away in a convincing 78-66 victory, advancing them to the second round of PIAA-5A play Tuesday against Upper Merion.
Wissahickon finished its season 14-12.
The 22-1 Bobcats, champions of District Three, got a game-high 30-points from Antonio Rizzuto and had two others reach double figures, pulling away to a 42-25 lead at the break. But Wiss kept battling, getting to within 76-66 late behind a phenomenal 18 fourth-quarter points from junior Chaz Owens.
“When you get to the state tournament, it’s anybody’s game, but you can’t expect to win when you don’t play one of your better games,” Trojans coach Kyle Wilson said. “But I thought a lot of our younger guys that will be back played tough, played well. Hopefully they got a taste of what lies ahead for them next year.”
Wissahickon got out to an early 14-8 lead but Northeastern began creating open shots — Rizzuto and Nate Wilson combined for three 3-pointers in the opening quarter — and the Bobcats pulled ahead for good going into the second.
What was practically a home crowd for the Bobcats was soon roaring after every Northeastern basket, momentum and the lead piling up by halftime at West York High. Foul trouble began to be too much of an obstacle for the Trojans to overcome.
“When foul trouble began rolling around, you have to start mixing your line-ups and (Northeastern) was able to play with its strong five the entire game,” Wilson said. “They’re playing five guards and find a way to make plays.
“We knew coming out here that the game’s gonna be in their backyard. Expect the crowd to be against you but if you wanna pull off the upset, you gotta be above those things. (Northeastern’s) a really good team, really good team.”
In addition to Owens’ dominant play around the basket, Wiss also got 18 points from senior Shane Ford, nine from junior Max Rapoport and eight from junior Zach Reiner.
A three by Rizzuto gave the Bobcats a 66-45 lead midway through the fourth, but a variety of drives and jumpers along with some free throws by Owens made it as close as a 10-point game in the final minutes, but Northeastern held on.
For many of the Trojans, they hope it’s just the beginning of their states experience.
“We rode a charter bus out here, the guys got to see what a state tournament game is like,” Wilson said of his squad. “They had three phenomenal district games where they played their behinds off. I couldn’t be happier for the experience they got and the opportunity they got, and for the seniors to get it their final year.”