By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
SCRANTON – Kieran Burrier and Patrick Bennie proved to be double trouble for Nanticoke in Saturday’s finale of the second annual Conference Challenge.
Burrier and Bennie each posted double-doubles for points and rebounds as Holy Cross controlled the inside on the way to a 45-42 victory over Nanticoke in the event which pits Lackawanna League teams against Wyoming Valley Conference opponents in a boys basketball tripleheader at the Lackawanna College Student Union Center.
The Lackawanna League came out on top, 2-1, this season, but the WVC remains ahead, 4-2, through two years.
Burrier finished with a team-high 14 points and 11 rebounds, including eight on the defensive end.
Bennie had 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, seven of which came on offense.
They led the Crusaders to a 36-22 rebounding advantage and teamed on a surge to seemingly put Holy Cross in control at the beginning of the second half.
Hayden Hosie hit a 3-pointer on his only shot to put Holy Cross ahead to stay, 21-20, late in the first half.
The Crusaders closed the half with a 9-2 run, then opened the second half with an 11-3 advantage to make it 34-23 midway through the third quarter. That run got a boost by Holy Cross grabbing the first six rebounds of the second half.
Bennie scored inside three times early in the second half. Burrier drove for another basket and used an offensive rebound to set up a Bennie score. Caleb Callejas then capped the surge with a 3-pointer from 23 feet.
“(Bennie) had a tremendous second half,” Holy Cross coach Al Callejas said. “The kids finally started getting him the ball. Why they stopped, I don’t know.
“I don’t like moving away from things that are working, but for some reason, we didn’t get it to him enough late.”
Nanticoke rallied to get within two points late in the third quarter and gave itself two shots at the tying 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds.
“That’s what we do as a Nanticoke Trojans team; we keep on fighting,” said Zach Pientka, whose team is 1-3 in his first season as head coach while John Beggs sits out the season for health reasons. “We’re playing good teams to start the season.
“We’re going to be ready when the season goes further.”
J.J. Bielecki was 3-for-6 on 3-pointers when he took the game’s final shot only to have it spin out without being able to force overtime.
“We need to do a better job at crunch time,” coach Callejas said. “And, we had seniors out there. I’m not sure quite why there was hesitation, but there was.
“That’s what December is for. We’ll keep working and we’ll fix what needs to be fixed.”
Bielecki led Nanticoke with 17 points. Colby Butczynski, who also made three 3-pointers, added 10.
Jake Krupinski scored 9 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Caleb Callejas had nine points and five rebounds while Burrier also had three assists as Holy Cross became the first District 2 boys team to reach 4-0.
“There’s growing pains, but any time you’re 4-0, … we’re always happy with that,” coach Callejas said. “It’s always nice to start like that.”
The Crusaders, the top-ranked Small School in NEPABasketball.com’s Super Six Power Rankings of District 2 teams, is the defending Lackawanna League Division 3 and district Class 2A champion. The Trojans were last season’s WVC Division 2 champ.
MORE SATURDAY ACTION:
Valley View-Holy Redeemer Game: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2019-20/Articles/BGameVVHR.
Northwest-Susquehanna Game: http://www.nepabasketball.com/2019-20/Articles/BGameVVHR.