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Neshannock boys cruise past Freedom in section game

Jan. 20—The Neshannock High boys basketball team is back in the win column after defeating Freedom on Friday.

The Lancers toppled Freedom, 84-26, in a WPIAL Section 1-3A home game.

"We had a couple good days of film studies after the Mohawk game. We looked at a bunch of our mistakes, especially on the defensive end," John Corey said. "Obviously, it's good to get a bounce back win here."

Neshannock's Jake Rynd got things going in the first quarter by posting the first six points for his team. Rynd scored all of his 16 points in the first half of the game and supplied nine rebounds.

"Jake played well," Corey said. "I thought he did a good job of getting to the rim. They played that zone defense so he did a really good job of attacking the gaps and getting to the rim."

Neshannock (6-1 section, 13-2 overall) entered the second quarter with a 19-point lead over the Bulldogs.

Neshannock's Matt Sopko netted back-to-back 3-pointers to start off the second quarter and force Freedom to call a timeout with 6:35 remaining in the first half.

"I thought Matt Sopko played really well. He shot the ball extremely well," Corey said. "He was 5 of 6 behind the arc. It was good to see Matt come out and look to attack like he was tonight."

Sopko paced Neshannock with 17 points and five steals.

"We had to practice hard all week and focus to get back on track," Sopko said of the win. "Every time I'm open I try to shoot it and they were leaving me open a lot...might as well shoot it every time. It was a goal of ours to keep their points down and we had to make sure we hit that goal. We had to play hard and get a lot of deflections and steals."

The Lancers pulled down 40 rebounds to Freedom's 17.

"It was something we talked about before the game," Corey said of rebounding. "It was one of our numbers. We had five different target numbers for today's game and that was one that we wanted to be plus 17."

With 32 seconds left in the first half, Rynd sank a bucket to give Neshannock a 30-point lead at halftime. Corey said he wasn't worried with complacency from his team to start the second half.

"I didn't think we'd come out flat or complacent at all," Corey said. "I thought we did a good job early in that third quarter. I thought we got things started pretty quickly in that third."

The clock continued to run at the start of the third quarter because of the mercy rule. The Lancers outscored Freedom by 11 points in the third.

David Kwiat produced 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Neshannock.

"Dave had a lot of clean looks," Corey said. "He was a little bit under his average tonight, percentage-wise, from behind that arc. But, I thought he played well, he had seven rebounds tonight and three assists. Overall, he had a nice floor game."

With 3:42 remaining in the game, Corey took his starters out.

"When we're playing eight, nine guys most of the game, everybody is in and out," Corey said. "Obviously, we didn't go further than that until the end, but it was good to see some of those guys get in. Lyle Fries hits a big 3 for us; Geoffrey Measel had a couple of baskets late in the fourth. It was good to see some of those other guys get off (the bench) and get some varsity points."

Ellwood City Lincoln hosts the Lancers at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in section action.

"It's a big game; it's an important one," Corey said of facing Ellwood City. "Ellwood's a lot better than they were the first time that we played them. We're going to be in for a battle on Tuesday night. We're going to have a couple good days of prep work in preparation for that. We'll go down there and give them all we've got on Tuesday."