By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
DALLAS TOWNSHIP – Jeremy Callahan needed just 1:05 to put together a decisive eight-point outburst late in the game Friday night, sending Wyoming Seminary into the first Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament boys championship game with a come-from-behind, 56-50 victory over Crestwood.
Callahan had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“They were trying to pack it in and play our bigs because that’s our strength,” said Callahan, a junior guard, who went 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter with a pair of 3-pointers. “The outside opened up more in the second half and more in transition.”
And, that allowed Callahan to put up points in a hurry while sending the Division 3 champions into Saturday night’s championship game against Nanticoke at Hazleton Area.
Crestwood had led for all but 14 seconds of the previous eight minutes before Callahan drove for a basket and 46-45 Wyoming Seminary lead with 2:40 remaining.
Instead of cautiously protecting the lead, Callahan aggressively expanded it when he found an opening. He fired up a 3-pointer in transition, then hit again from the left wing for a 52-45 lead with 1:35 remaining.
Mike Palmiero, who led Crestwood with 26 points, came up with a loose rebound and hit his sixth 3-pointer to make it 52-48 with 1:15 left, but the Comets could not get any closer.
Todd Phillips tipped in his own miss and Jake Koretz hit both ends of a one-and-one to make it 56-48 before Crestwood scored the game’s last basket.
Callahan finished 8-for-11 from the field.
Koretz and Nick Ganter scored nine points each.
Todd Phillips, who had 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and Ethan Meuser, who came off the bench, had 8 points each.
With all-state forward Dimitri Gnall hurting coming in and center Ganter suffering an ankle injury during the game, Meuser, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, was called on for extra duty.
Wyoming Seminary coach Pete Moses said “a medical issue” made Gnall’s status uncertain until right before game time.
“Ethan’s a great two-way player,” Moses said of Meuser, who went 3-for-5 while also contributing four rebounds and three blocked shots. “He’s also a kid who’s very versatile. He’s the kind of kid who can play the 2, 3, 4 and 5 for us and he can defend the 2, 3, 4 and 5.”
Sean Murphy added 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for Crestwood, the tournament’s wild-card entry.
Palmiero grabbed seven rebounds.
Wyoming Seminary recovered from its own 6:36 scoreless stretch spanning the first and second quarters to take a 22-17 halftime lead.
The Blue Knights held the Comets to 4 points in the final 10 minutes of the half, which they closed with a nine-point streak.
Meuser hit a 3-pointer then, after Wyoming Seminary went the first 13-plus minutes without an offensive rebound, he converted one into a three-point play.
“We like what he brings us off the bench,” Moses said. “We think he’s a threat from the outside. He’s a good stretch and makes their big guys come out and defend.
“We ran an offense today where our bigs came out on the perimeter a little bit.”
Koretz found Callahan open in transition in time for Callahan to hit a 3-pointer two seconds before halftime.
The third quarter featured seven of the game’s 13 lead changes before Crestwood appeared to be taking control.
Palmiero scored 10 points in a 14-4 run to a 43-37 lead with 7:04 left.
With Callahan leading the way, Wyoming Seminary then put together a 19-5 burst before a harmless Crestwood basket in the final 20 seconds.
“In the first half, I don’t think I played to the best of my abilities,” Callahan said. “ … In the second half, things started opening up and I started knocking down some shots that we really needed.”
Wyoming Seminary entered the tournament as the top seed because of its best record, but as the champion of the small school division, Callahan thinks there is still something left to prove while trying to win the tournament title.
“It would be nice, especially with us not having the best reputation from years past,” he said. “Being from Division 3, I think it would be nice for a small Division 3 team from Class 3A to come out and win one of these type of things.”
NANTICOKE ADVANCES: The Trojans won the other WVC final before eight 3-pointers by Nate Kreitzer. http://nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/BoysGameNanticokeHazleton.
FRIDAY ROUNDUP: Holy Cross repeats as division champion. http://nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/BoysRoundup021519.