Jan. 25—THROOP — Danny Nemitz squared up to the basket and knocked down a deep 3-pointer, then let out a loud roar toward the raucous crowd inside the Mid Valley gymnasium.
The veteran starter and leader of the Spartans provided his leadership and emotion for the team in a second-half comeback. Well. 4 Mid Valley overcame a double-digit deficit to post a 72-61 win over No. 8 Old Forge on Tuesday night in a Lackawanna League Division III boys basketball game.
It was an important game in the division, where the Spartans are 5-1, and in the race for seeding in the District 2 Class 3A playoff chase. Mid Valley (12-3 overall) is ranked second behind Holy Redeemer, while Old Forge dropped to 2-4 in the division and 10-4 overall and is seeded fourth.
“My Coach (Mike Abda) challenged me to be the best player on the floor,” said Nemitz, who scored 34 points, which included 26 in the second half. “I tried to do that. I just want to be a leader for this team. I don’t want to lose on my home court in my senior year.
“It’s all about staying with the grind. It is a long game. We just needed to stay and play to our standard.”
Old Forge appeared on its way with a fast start against the Spartans.
Joey Macciocco scored 11 points in the first quarter and the first four points of the second quarter as the Blue Devils built an 18-8 lead and forced a Mid Valley timeout.
After Coach Abda implored the Spartans to pick up the defensive pressure, Mid Valley outscored Old Forge, 12-5, in the final 6:08. Jakob Lesher got the offense going with a 3-pointer and contributed a pair of free throws. Ricky Vinansky also hit two free throws, and Nemitz finished the half with five straight points, including one of his four 3-pointers, and Mid Valley trailed 23-20.
In the second half, Macciocco hit another 3-pointer and Joey Granko scored off a feed from Macciocco, and Old Forge had reestablished a 28-24 lead with 5:30 left in the third.
But Mid Valley seized the momentum. Vinansky scored on a layup, and Nemitz scored. Then, on a fast break, Nemitz had a 3-point opportunity that danced off the rim. Lesher leaped in for the Offensive rebound, quickly dropped off a pass to Nemitz, who converted a layup, and the Spartans had a 30-28 lead.
“I am just out there trying to do the little things,” Lesher said. “I want to give the guys the best opportunities for them to succeed. We really came out right in the second half. We really bounced back from the rough first half.”
That layup ignited a 6-3 surge in the final 2:32 of the third by the Spartans for a 36-31 lead. The last basket was the 3-pointer that fired up Nemitz and the crowd.
“I felt like we had the game there,” Nemitz said. “We got the lead, and we know what our defense can do once we get a lead.”
Mason O’Malley scored on a layup off an assist from Lesher. Nemitz drilled another 3-pointer after Lesher started a break with a blocked shot. Vinansky had a strong offensive rebound and layup, and Mid Valley extended the lead to 43-31 with 6:22 left in the fourth quarter.
“In the first half, I wasn’t going up strong, and my shots weren’t going down,” Vinansky said. “Going into the second half, Coach told me I had to get tough. Plus, Danny started to warm up, so I knew that offensively, I didn’t have to do anything crazy, so I focused on crashing the boards.
“Everything started on the defensive end, and that opened things up on offense, and we got the win.”
The intensity of the game at the defensive end created a lot of fouls. Both teams found themselves in the double bonus early in the fourth quarter, and with Old Forge trying to fight its way back from a double-digit deficit, a Parade to the free-throw line ensued.
Mid Valley attempted 28 free throws and Old Forge tried 23 in the quarter, and getting more than 1 minute of steady play became a challenge.
Down the stretch, Nemitz made 13 of 14 and finished 17 of 20. Vinansky went 4 of 6 to finish with 21 points and also had six of his 11 rebounds in the fourth as the Spartans held off Old Forge.
“It’s all about practice with free throws,” said Nemitz, who moved into third place on Mid Valley’s all-time scoring list with 1,128 points. They trail Ronny Tomasetti (1,238) and Alex Prislupsky (1,173).
“At the end of every practice, we shoot free throws. Every practice is like 3 hours long, so our legs are dead. Practice is Harder than the games. Ricky and I really practice our free throws. I am the senior leader, so I have to make mine.”
Macciocco scored six of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and also finished with six assists, six rebounds, and five steals. Tyler Pepsin made all seven of his free throws in the fourth and contributed 12 points in the game for the Blue Devils.
“I thought early on we accepted the challenge, and defensively we were there,” Old Forge Coach JJ Thomas said. “Joey went on a run there, but coming out for the third quarter has kind of been our Achilles’ heel. We just didn’t have that same defensive prowess that we had when we started the game.
“But, I can’t knock our guys’ effort, especially at the end of the game. We didn’t quit and kept fighting and battling until the end.”
Mid Valley 72, Old Forge 61
Old Forge (10-4, 2-4) — J. Macciocco 11 1-4 27, T. Pepsin 2 7-7 12, M. Kuckla 0 6-7 6, J. Granko 2 1-2 5, A. Cole 2 1-1 5, C. Parker 1 0-0 3, D. Fox 0 2-2 2, A. Mucciolo 0 1-2 1, R. DeMarco 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 19-25 61 .
Mid Valley (12-3, 5-1) — D. Nemitz 7 17-20 34, R. Vinansky 7 6-9 21, N. Sadaka 1 4-4 6, J. Lesher 1 3-4 6, M. O’Malley 2 1-2 5, B. Lettieri 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 31-39 72.
Old Forge 14 9 8 30 — 61
Mid Valley 8 12 16 36 — 72
3-point goals: J. Macciocco (OF) 4, T. Pepsin (OF), C. Parker (OF), D. Nemitz (MV) 3, R. Vinansky (MV), J. Lesher (MV). JV: Old Forge, 44-41, OT (OF: Fox 13, MV: Dunston 12).
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