MANHEIM TWP. >> The Upper Merion boys basketball team’s season came to an end Thursday night with a 61-40 loss to Northeastern in the second round of the PIAA Class-5A tournament at Manheim Township High School.
(1-2) Upper Merion never led in the game. The teams were tied once, 7-7.
The Vikings opened the second half on a 12-5 run to get within three, 34-31. (3-1) Northeastern responded with a 14-0 stretch into the beginning of the fourth quarter that put them ahead, 48-31, and the game was out of reach. Upper Merion never got within single digits again.
“It hurts when that happens,” Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer said. “The buckets went on just grit — offensive boards, wanting it more. Credit to them, they stayed strong during a heck of a run by us, but I thought there might be a little bit of a turning point there. Just couldn’t get over that hump.”
Upper Merion went into the game with a noticeable size advantage. Matt Faw stands at 6-foot-8 and Ethan Miller and Anthony Shepperd 6-foot-7. The Bobcats biggest player on the floor was 6-foot-2.
The three bigs combined for just 26 points and the outside shooting didn’t help — going 1-for-14 from three-point land.
“Similar style to what Penncrest did,” Quenzer said of how his forwards were held in check. “I’m sure they watched that film (Penncrest) where they go in and doubled the post and crammed it in. We went 1-for-14 from three. Why wouldn’t you pack it in against us if we’re not shooting the ball well?”
“We didn’t really have good spacing on the post feeds,” Faw said. “They would double easily and we had two people in the area with someone trying to post up so we didn’t really have good spacing. That messed everything up.”
Northeastern opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run to turn a one-point lead after eight minutes into an eight-point advantage, 18-10. That grew to 10, 29-19, at the half.
Miller and Faw led Upper Merion with 12 points each. Miller’s first basket of the game gave him 1,000 in his career.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Miller said. “I credit my teammates — pushing me this hard all four years, staying focused in the gym, getting better. There’s no way I could have done it without them. We got this far because we’re teammates. I just wanted to push farther and keep getting it up. I wanted my boy Matt (Faw) to get 1,000 — probably more than me. He deserved it.”
Antonio Rizzuto led Northeastern with 24 points. Fred Mulbah and Brandon Coleman joined him in double figures with 14 each.
Northeastern 61, Upper Merion 40Upper Merion 10 9 12 9 – 40
Northeastern 11 18 12 20 – 61
Upper Merion: Newell 2 1-1 5, Breece 3 0-0 7, Miller 5 2-2 12, Faw 4 4-7 12, Shepperd 1 0-0 2, Chmelko 1 0-0 2. Total 16 7-10 40.
Northeastern: Wilson 1 0-0 3, Mulbah 5 4-6 14, Rizzuto 7 7-10 24, Green 3 0-0 6, Coleman 6 2-4 14. Total 21 13-20 61.
Three-point goals: UM: Breece. NE: Wilson, Rizzuto 3.
Top Photo: Matt Faw (33) of Upper Merion looks for shooting room against Brandon Coleman (1) of Northeastern in PIAA Class 5A second round playoff action at Manheim Township High School on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media)