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Berks Catholic handles Blue Mountain in first round of PIAA Class 4A boys basketball playoffs

Mar. 9—RENNINGERS — Berks Catholic will see at least another 32 minutes of action this season, as the Saints defeated host Blue Mountain 43-32 in a PIAA Class 4A boy basketball first-round matchup on Friday night.

With the win, Berks Catholic will play Neumann-Goretti, the District 12 champion, in the second round on Tuesday at a time and site to be announced. Neumann-Goretti (23-3) defeated Littlestown 86-63 in the first round on Friday night.

"I'm happy for more basketball," Saints senior Joshua McKoy said. "We're just going to keep coming out and keep playing ball."

The third-place team from District 3, Berks Catholic was led by Parker Nein, who finished with 13 points. He made three 3-pointers and had eight rebounds.

Nein's hot start proved pivotal, as the senior scored the first two baskets for his team— both 3-pointers— and led all scorers with 11 points in the first half to help the Saints (23-4) establish a 21-15 lead at halftime.

"He kept us in it in the first half and Josh (McKoy) got going in the second half," Berks Catholic coach Snip Esterly said about Nein. "Parker in the first half was rebounding and he had two deep 3s to begin with, which got us out. We were struggling to get out of the gates early in the last four or five games, but tonight we got out quickly."

As Esterly alluded, McKoy's presence was key down the stretch, as the All-Berks forward scored all nine of his points in the second half and finished the game with 10 rebounds.

With his team holding a four-point lead with under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, McKoy worked his way into the paint and found fellow senior Elijah Komoro open down low for easy baskets on two straight possessions to make it 40-32.

"At halftime I talked to him (McKoy) and I said, 'When you get downhill, they're sagging off me so my man's gonna step up to you. When they come out to you, give it to me and if they don't, then just go right off,'" Komoro said.

Komoro had a block that led to a turnover with 1:38 to go and the Saints prevented Blue Mountain from scoring the rest of the way. He also had nine points and six rebounds.

"We definitely had to turn it up," McKoy said. "They were getting close and I had to do what I had to do and find my open players. I was able to find him (Komoro) every time I went in."

McKoy scored seven points in the third to help Berks Catholic create a 30-25 lead after three quarters.

Senior Issac Thomas scored a team-high 12 points for Blue Mountain and had seven in the first half. The Eagles (23-5) trailed by as many as 11 in the third quarter before cutting the Saints' lead to 36-32 late in the fourth.

"Nein came out and hit a couple 3s early in the game and got them some momentum, and that kind of put us on our heels a little bit," Eagles coach Dustin Werdt said. "As we adjusted to that, then they started to beat us up to the dribble a little bit more and that's a credit to a good team."

In addition to Thomas, sophomore Tyeirre Meade had seven points, junior Aidan Grace had five points and senior Elijah Feisel had five points for Blue Mountain, the District 11 runner-up.

Werdt said he was proud of his seniors' leadership as they helped propel the season in the right direction.

"Our seniors, all four of our seniors — Braiden Mcghee, Tyler Miller, Elijah Feisel and Isaac Thomas — were great," Werdt said. "(They were) not just great basketball players, they're great kids, they're great leaders and they led the whole season.

"They always steered the ship in the right direction. They all came to practice. They were focused and did what they were supposed to do and they led the way that they needed to do."

Heading into the next round with jubilation, Esterly said he is elated that his senior leaders get to shine in another game — and possibly more.

"I'm happy as can be for them because their personalities are top-notch," Esterly said. "I love talking to them in practice. We know when it's time to work but we can have fun, and those guys love to have fun."