Bishop McCort executed an inside-outside job in Wednesday’s District 6 Class AA boys basketball playoff game against Central Cambria.
The Crushers’ senior duo of Nemo Trexler and Nathan Neiderhiser attacked the Red Devils’ 2-3 zone defense effectively with long-range bombs, tough play in the paint, and an occasional highlight-tape pass in a 68-63 victory.
“They were in a 2-3 zone, so obviously we couldn’t sit down low or sit out top,” said Trexler, who made six 3-point field goals, and with 29 points, moved within four points of tying Bishop McCort’s all-time career scoring record that’s stood 29 years. “We just had to keep moving the ball, finding open spaces on the block, on the post, on the wing, on the perimeter. We got it done.”
Sixth-seeded McCort (16-7) will face No. 3 Bald Eagle Area on Friday. No. 11 Central Cambria closed an 11-11 season.
Neiderhiser had 22 points, with four three-pointers. He also was on the receiving end of a few crisp passes that resulted in points inside.
“When Nemo gets the ball and makes a couple shots and they come out and guard him, if he looks down, which he did on some nice plays to Karch (Helsel) and Nate (Neiderhiser), that’s a big difference,” McCort coach Jerry Murphy said. “If we get that inside-outside moving, we’re pretty hard to guard.”
Trexler is four points from tying/five from breaking Paul Deibert’s McCort record of 1,603 points set from 1981-85.
The Crushers had to contend with Central Cambria’s hot shooting Tanner Ambrisco, who had 22 points and at times single-handedly brought the Devils back into contention. Central Cambria’s Will Seymour had 13 points and eight rebounds. Conner Homan and Matt Leary each had eight points.
“The kids battled and the effort was great,” Central Cambria coach Adam Stephan said. “Nemo was just a little too much for us. He hit some really, really tough shots. He shot pretty well from the floor, just a little too much for us to handle.”
McCort led 14-12 after a quarter and 33-29 at intermission.
The Crushers pushed the advantage to 11 points, 50-39, after a Neiderhiser 3-pointer, but Ambrisco hit two quick baskets, and Homan scored on a rebound to close within 50-45 entering the fourth.
“Tanner has been doing that all year for us. He’s just a phenomenal player,” Stephan said. “When he had to make a big shot, he stepped up. We were down nine at one point and it looked like it was going to get away and he had a little spurt and cut it down to four.
“We’d get it to within 3 or 4 and we never could get over that hump,” Stephan added. “The kids in that locker room, I’m proud of their effort.”
Murphy was glad to see McCort overcome what he labeled back-to-back subpar shooting nights against Somerset in the regular-season and in a one-sided setback to undefeated Bishop Carroll in the LHAC title game on Saturday.
“We had a burn the sports page ceremony at practice to leave that (Bishop Carroll) game behind,” Murphy said. “Hopefully it’s left behind in the garbage can at the Bach Center.
“We talk about it’s a four-game season right now and anything can happen. Everybody is 0-0. If we get a little momentum and play hard, I think we’ll be OK.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @masty81.