Senior guard Billy Shank scored a game-high 17 points, including five crucial points down the stretch, to help Neumann Goretti (5-1) hold off Mount Vernon (2-1) 65-61 in a much anticipated matchup between a pair of defending state champions at 20th annual STOP-DWI Holiday Classic.
Down 51-43 with 4:26 to play in the game, Mount Vernon used an 8-2 run to slice the Neumann Goretti lead to two, but a layup by Shank quieted the Mount Vernon faithful. The Knights then forced a ten second call on Neumann Goretti with 1:51 left still down four.
Out of a timeout Qwadene Lovell hit a three from the right elbow to cut the lead to one. However, Neumann Goretti would answer as Shank hit a three of his own to push the lead back to four, 58-54. After trading turnovers, another three was dropped in by the Knights' Isaiah Cousins with 48 seconds to again cut the lead to one.
Following a Mount Vernon stop, the Knights were unable to convert on the offensive end. Neumann Goretti iced the game sinking 7-of-10 free throws in the closing minute. Mount Vernon had a chance with 3.3 seconds for a desperation three, but turned the ball over on the inbounds play.
Joining Shank with a double-digit scoring effort were Ja'Quan Newton and John Davis, who contributed 14 points and 13 points, respectively. Mount Vernon also had three scorers in double-digits led by senior forward Will Robinson's 17 points and six rebounds. Randy Stephens (13 pts.) and Isaiah Cousins (10 pts.)
In the first half the two-time defending Pennsylvania AAA champions raced out to a 7-0 lead before Mount Vernon finally scored with just under three minutes left in the first quarter. A three by Neumann Goretti freshman Lamarr Kimble beat the first quarter buzzer giving the Philadelphia-area team a 12-5 lead after the opening frame.
The Saints of Neumann Goretti carried a seven-point lead into the half, 24-17. The deficit would be much larger for the defending New York State Federation champions who struggled offensively shooting just 25 percent (7-of-27) from the field, but two quick steals and layups by the Knights helped bring the deficit within ten.
Out of the break, Mount Vernon looked to increase the pace employing a full-court press on Neumann Goretti. The Knights executed the defense to perfection creating several Saint turnovers and all but eliminating the seven point halftime deficit.
Back-to-back fast break layups by Randy Stephens trimmed the lead to one with just under four minutes in the third. A three by junior Joshua Doughty gave Mount Vernon its first lead of the game, 33-32. Neumann Goretti carried a one-point advantage into the fourth however, 39-38.
Offensive rebounds (16-11 advantage) gave Neumann Goretti second chance points that hampered a Mount Vernon comeback. A put back by Davis extended the Neumann Goretti lead to six 49-43 with 5:16 to play, which preceded the game's hectic ending.
Neumann Goretti advances in the winner's bracket and will face the winner of the St. Thomas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) on Thursday night at 9:15 p.m. Mount Vernon, meanwhile, moves into the consolation bracket where it will face Seton Catholic (Binghamton, N.Y.) on Thursday afternoon at 2:45 p.m.
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