By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
SCRANTON – Nick Prociak and Collin Cook work well together, something that was evident in three of the most important stretches Saturday night in the last game of the first Conference Challenge.
Holy Redeemer completed a sweep by the Wyoming Valley Conference against Lackawanna League opponents in the boys tripleheader at Lackawanna College.
The team’s two senior starters made sure of that by creating double-figures leads that the Royals were able to protect during several charges from Valley View in a 63-53 victory.
Prociak finished with a game-high 19 points, along with 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Cook matched Mason Mendyrgal with 15 points and also contributed 6 rebounds and a game-high 7 assists.
“They’re very good friends on and off the court,” Holy Redeemer coach Paul Guido said. “They play well together.”
So well that Cook had the assist on four of Prociak’s baskets.
Every time the Royals pulled away a bit, it seemed that Prociak and Cook were right in the middle of the surge.
Holy Redeemer (2-0) scored the game’s first nine points, all by the two seniors.
Cook opened the game with a 17-footer and, after Prociak converted an offensive rebound and a Cook assist, it was Cook again with a 3-pointer from the right corner.
“I was thrilled with the way we came out of the gates,” Guido said.
That start helped Holy Redeemer build its first double-figures lead at 14-4 on a Mendygral 3-pointer 5 ½ minutes into the game.
In the first half, the lead only got that high again once and never got any higher.
The Royals built their biggest leads early and late in the third quarter.
Cook scored six straight with a 3-pointer and a three-point play to start what turned into a 14-5 surge to the game’s biggest lead, 42-29, with 4:20 left in the third. Prociak scored twice in the run, including once off a Cook lob pass.
Valley View answered with an 8-2 run before Holy Redeemer settled down late in the quarter.
Mendygral hit a free throw, then Prociak got easy baskets 28 seconds apart in the final minute of the quarter, both off of Cook breaking the press then setting him up for easy baskets. That made it 49-37.
“I have to give it to my teammates always passing me the ball in good spots and I’m just able to finish it off,” said Prociak, who shot 9-for-14 from the floor.
Valley View was not done.
The Cougars scored the next six points, including back-to-back baskets by Dixon Black to open the fourth quarter.
They put together eight points in a row midway through the quarter with the help of a Bobby Craig three-point play and a Marc Kudrich 3-pointer. Zack Kovalchik capped that run off a Black assist to close the gap to 55-53 with 2:23 left.
“We have a ton of respect for them,” Guido said. “We knew they were not going to cave.
“Credit to my guys, too. They did not panic down the stretch.”
Holy Redeemer went 5-for-8 from the line – including 3-for-4 by freshman Justice Shoats – and scored the game’s final seven points.
The event was the first chance locally for Prociak to show off the progress he has made since missing the second half of last season with a stress fracture in his left foot. The 6-foot-7 senior had 28 points in an 87-43 romp over Hunter College High in New York City in the team’s only previous game.
“Prior to him breaking it, he was having an MVP-type of season,” Guido said. “I felt terrible for him.”
Prociak put in his offseason rehab work, returning to the court for the first time at the end of July.
“I don’t think anything changed,” Prociak said. “Just working as hard as I did in the offseason, I’ve just become better at some things than I used to be.”
Craig had 11 points to lead Valley View (2-2). Kudrich had 9 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists.
SATURDAY RUNDOWN: This is just one of six stories recapping the action for District 2 boys teams Saturday. The others are:
Nanticoke’s victory in the Conference Challenge: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/ConferenceChallenge2.
Tunkhannock’s triumph in the Conference Challenge: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/ConferenceChallenge1.
Scranton Prep’s win in Philadelphia: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/PrepFrJudgeBoys.
A roundup of the rest of the action, led by Lakeland’s title at the Cal King Memorial Tournament. http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/Boys121518.
A shorter recap of the three-game Conference Challenge combination: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2018-19/articles/BulletinConferenceChallenge.