WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Tyler Mozeleski left the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in 2017 with a District 2 gold medal, but without a basket entered next to his name in the scorebook.
Mozeleski made sure the Holy Cross boys basketball team repeated the Class 2A championship, while also being certain not to duplicate his personal performance.
The junior forward from Yatesville made his first three 3-point attempts – all in the game’s first 6:25 – to get the Crusaders out to a fast start on the way to a 55-39 victory over Northwest March 3.
“Once you hit your first couple, you’re thinking you can’t miss, really,” said Mozeleski, who scored a game-high 19 points while becoming the first boy to hit five 3-pointers in an arena championship game. “After the first two, I knew the third one was going to go in and my teammates just got me in position to make the shots.”
Mozeleski cracked the Holy Cross lineup as a sophomore primarily because of his long-range shooting ability.
The Crusaders needed Mozeleski to add to his game this season and he responded.
At 6 foot, Mozeleski matches Tommy Montefour as the tallest players on a small team. With that being the case, Holy Cross coach Al Callejas needed him to add rebounding and inside play on both ends of the floor and Mozeleski has also fit better with the team’s well-earned reputation as intense defenders.
Mozeleski was also the leading rebounder in the district final with nine, helping Holy Cross to a 37-24 rebounding advantage.
“Last year, we lost a 6-8 in Malachi (Phillips) so that left a lot of rebounds and the defensive presence inside that there was no answer for,” Mozeleski said. “So, Tom Montefour and I knew we had to step up and get a lot more rebounds each game and get our hands up and protect the paint a lot more than we did last year.”
Against a Northwest team with its own dangerous combination of shooters, the Holy Cross defense dominated as the team built leads of 17-4 after one quarter and 26-9 with less than a minute left in the half.
“There’s nothing like holding a team to four points in a quarter,” Mozeleski said.
Holy Cross held Northwest to 1-for-8 shooting on 3-pointers in the first half and 5-for-20 in the game.
“We knew we had to get our hands up on them and close the right way and get defensive rebounds so they couldn’t get second shots,” Mozeleski said. “For the most part, I think we did that.”
Mozeleski had 16 of his points in the first half. He finished 5-for-10 on 3-pointers also chipped in two assists and two steals for the Lackawanna League Division 3 champions, who headed into state play with a 17-game winning streak.
“Tyler came out and got us off to that torrid start,” Callejas said.
Mozeleski had 11 points in the first quarter. His first 3-pointer, from the left wing 1:18 into the game, erased the only deficit for a 3-2 lead. He then scored the last eight points of the first quarter with consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key and left corner before hitting a basket from close range.
The game was not even 10 minutes old when Mozeleski drilled another 3-pointer from the left corner.
That proved to be his favorite spot as Mozeleski hit from there a third time off an-inbounds play to make it 38-20 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Mozeleski said. “Last year, I didn’t score here at all, so I wasn’t expecting to do much, but you just have to shoot when you’re open.”
And, when you’re hitting.