Nanticoke Area Rallies For Division 2 Title
YATESVILLE — Panic? No such thing for the Nanticoke Area Trojans.
The most veteran lineup in the Wyoming Valley Conference faced an early 13-point deficit, but, once again, ended Wednesday night as champions.
All-state senior point guard Nate Kreitzer scored a game-high 23 points and junior Colby Butczynski tied a season-high with 19 points, leading Nanticoke Area to a 60-49 win against GAR at Pittston Area.
After going into halftime down 32-24, Nanticoke Area well outplayed GAR in the second half, as the win broke a tie for the WVC Division 2 regular-season title.
“At halftime, I think we were honest with the seniors,” said Nanticoke Area head coach John Beggs. “We put a lot of emphasis on what we thought we lacked in the first half, and we challenged those guys to lead us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do it without ’em. They answered the call, the younger guys followed their lead, and here we are with our second consecutive division championship.”
Nanticoke Area has the same starting five as last season — seniors Kreitzer, Trahjan Krupinski and Dylan Szychowski, Butczynski and sophomore Jake Krupinski — and that experience helped steady the Trojans during Wednesday’s most perilous moments.
After GAR guard Will Johnson, the WVC’s leading scorer, knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Grenadiers a 30-17 lead in the second quarter, GAR’s Curon Smith swatted a block out of bounds with great authority.
GAR appeared to be in total control.
“Coach just kept on giving us encouragement,” Butczynski said. “He told us to keep fighting and we’ll win. On the court, we just talked about how we’re still in this — one basket will change the whole entire game — and we kept our heads up and we played until the end.”
From that point, Nanticoke Area kept eating away at the GAR lead until it finally took its first lead with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Andy Kozlofski, who came off the bench, knocked down a jumper from the foul line to put Nanticoke Area ahead 42-41.
“He’s been contributing in our games recently,” Beggs said of Kozlofski. “He’s been shooting it really well. His confidence right now is probably at the highest it’s been, so we wanted to give him an opportunity on offense when things weren’t going our way. He stepped up and hit a couple clutch shots.”
The lead grew from there, as Kreitzer hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-41 entering the final quarter.
Kreitzer dished a perfect pass to Trahjan Krupinski for a layup to start the fourth quarter, kicking off a final period in which Nanticoke Area outscored GAR 15-8.
GAR head coach Jerry Altavilla said he warned his team at halftime to prepare for a rally from Nanticoke Area, although the Grenadiers did little to stop what wound up being a game-deciding run.
“We started playing a little tighter, our shots weren’t falling, their shots started falling,” Altavilla said.
Butczynski and Kreitzer iced the win down the stretch, going a combined 9 of 9 on free throws in the fourth quarter.
Butczynski backed his 19 points with three steals. The Trojans had 10 steals total.
“Colby came out in the second half and was assertive getting to the rim,” Beggs said. “His defense was good. His leadership was good. He was clutch at the free throw line, so he was one of those guys who followed the seniors’ lead.”
Butczynski said of the Trojans’ senior trio of starters: “We looked at the seniors for the guidance to help us get through the tough times. They brought us up and it made us play better.”
Johnson led GAR (15-8, 12-5 WVC) with 13 points, while Jared O’Day hit four 3s for 12 points. Curtis Smith added 11 points and Curon Smith 10.
With the win, Nanticoke Area (18-5, 12-5 WVC) advanced to play in the conference championship tournament. It’s expected to play Friday against Hazleton Area.
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