WILKES-BARRE – Wyoming Area halted an 11-year playoff drought with a single District 2 boys basketball win.
The Warriors, however, were unable to produce another win they needed to end another dry spell.
Wyoming Area earned two shots at a top-three district finish and state tournament berth when Aaron Zezza’s game-winning drive to the basket produced a dramatic, 44-43 win over Hanover Area in the quarterfinals.
Both of those shots, however, came up short when the Warriors were unable to follow-up strong, first-half efforts with similar second-half performances.
Wyoming Area finished fourth in District 2 Class 4A when it lost in the March 25 semifinals against Scranton Prep and Tuesday’s third-place game against Nanticoke despite combining to outscore the opposition, 66-53, in those games. The Warriors were outscored, 73-35, in the second halves.
In those first halves, the Warriors battled state-ranked Scranton Prep on near-even terms and built a lead on returning state semifinalist Nanticoke.
The playoff efforts by a team were an all-senior starting lineup were a major change from Wyoming Area’s recent history. The Warriors entered this season winless in the last 11 district tournaments, going 0-9 and missing the playoffs altogether twice.
The last playoff wins came in 2006 when the Warriors advanced to the state tournament.
Wyoming Area finished 15-10.
Wyoming Area 48
Wyoming Area’s playoff run peaked at a 20-point lead early in the second half of Tuesday’s third-place game at Holy Redeemer.
Nanticoke went on an extended, 34-9 run, holding Wyoming Area without a fourth-quarter field goal until the final four seconds of the come-from-behind win.
“Devastating,” Warriors coach Pete Moses said in describing the loss.
Wyoming Area seemed to take control of the game when it held Nanticoke scoreless for the final 5:40 of the first half and the first 2:01 of the second half.
During that time, the Warriors hit four of their nine 3-pointers in the game, two each by Zezza and Dylan Melberger, and ran off 18 straight points for a 36-16 lead.
Zezza went to the bench with three fouls and Greenfield joined him with 3:44 left in the third and the lead still at 40-23.
“I thought the foul trouble for Zezza and Sam in the third quarter created a real problem for us and our problem all year has been our depth and our inability to play without some of our key guys,” Moses said.
Moses said just hoped to keep the lead in double figures and get to the fourth quarter with all the starters with two fouls still available.
The Warriors almost got there.
Nanticoke ran off seven points, but Melbergerhit his fifth 3-pointer to complete a team-high, 15-point scoring effort, the lead was still at 43-30.
The Trojans scored the next 17 points, getting to within eight after three quarters, then moving ahead on a Nate Kreitzer drive with 3:01 left.
Kreitzer scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half. Colby Butczynski had 13 of his 15 points and all three of his steals in the half.
Nanticoke rallied when its defense both forced turnovers and cooled off the Warriors.
Wyoming Area started 7-for-12 on 3-pointers, then went 1-for-7 until Daniel Wiedl hit one with 3.4 seconds left.
The Warriors shot 52.2 percent in the first, but only 27.3 in the third and 12.5 in the fourth.
Zezza had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Greenfield had eight points and eight rebounds.
Scranton Prep 74
Wyoming Area 53
Scranton Prep held Wyoming Area to 14 percent shooting and 12 total points in the first 14:40 of the second half to break open what had been a 37-33 game at halftime of the District 2 semifinal at the Lackawanna College Student Union in Scranton.
The Warriors took the Cavaliers out of their usual pressing style in a fast-paced first half.
“They did a good job of attacking us and we didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Scranton Prep coach Andrew Kettel said. “We were allowing too many driving lanes and we talked about it at halftime.
“We buckled down and we stopped pressing.”
The Warriors were within 41-37 midway through the second quarter before the Cavaliers ran out to late, 72-47 lead.
Leo O’Boyle led Scranton Prep with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
Aaron Zezza scored 17 points to lead the Warriors. Sam Greenfield had 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
“We started having some real success, breaking the press and getting some layups with (Aaron) Zezza and Sammy (Greenfield),” Moses said. “We were attacking the basket.”
The pace, however, took its toll.
Wyoming Area senior center Matt Wright committed his third and fourth fouls less than a second apart with 5:44 left in the third quarter when it was still a four-point game.
Scranton Prep wound up with rebounding advantages of 23-13 in the second half and 45-29 in the game.
O’Boyle, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, and Wes Simons, a 6-6 senior center, finished with double-doubles. Simons had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
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