Josiah Coleman missed a last-second shot but Kane Wright grabbed the rebound and scored a buzzer-beating backhand.
That basket not only gave St. John Neumann 100 points in their District 4 Class A quarter-final against Millville, but told a story. The Knights generously carved out Millville all night and even when they missed shots Wednesday at the Catholic Community Center, there was often a player in a hurry who came to help create another opportunity. Put it all together and Neumann kept his many fans smiling from start to finish by beating Millville, 100-56 in the Class A District 4 quarter-finals and reaching Saturday’s semi-finals in Milton where he will face Lourdes.
Hanief Clay tied a career high with 35 points, Davion Hill added 21 and Neumann opened up his title defense in solid fashion. It was a performance as complete as it was impressive, with each player leaving their mark.
“It was just a great team win. Everyone got involved,” said Clay. “It’s about executing and being strong, in every game, in every possession. Every possession counts, especially defensively.
Neumann (20-3) struggled in that regard against the upset Quakers in the first half, but still led 53-36 at halftime. When the defense picked up the intensity and matched the attack in the second half, Neumann really took off. The Knights led by 27 at the start of the fourth quarter and the starters and reserves started the rampage.
While Clayed scored 35 points, he also dished out nine assists. Naseer Dymeck played a great all-around game, adding 10 points and six rebounds to go along with his six assists. Neumann moved quickly and the ball moved perhaps even faster as the players took turns setting up for quality shots. That played a big part in Neumann, making 56% of his shots and building a 28-17 advantage in the first quarter.
“It’s our MO If we share basketball, we are very, very good,” Neumann’s coach Jamie Spencer said. “Millville played very well in that first half. They took a few shots. We scored a few points but we worked really hard and challenged the shots and they got it.
“Everyone gets the ball. It’s not about scoring for us.” said Clay. “I’m a point guard, so I’d rather let open lay-ups pass than score. It’s a team thing for me. I care about the team and winning.
That mentality permeated the entire roster and Neumann never let up, fending off Millville’s comeback attempts and hot shots throughout the first half. Highlighting Neumann’s all-around effort, all five starters had already scored by the middle of the first quarter. Clay and Hill were dynamic again, but there were also teammates, especially Dymeck who was a major factor in all facets.
JerVal Weeks-Shuler scored eight points in the first half and made all four of his shots while adding six rebounds and three steals. Naz Smith was all over the court, firing eight rebounds and both Wright and Coleman provided sparks off the bench.
“It was a fun game. The atmosphere was really cool. said Spencer. “Having a doubleheader with the girls was really special. It was great to get in there and do it.
Eli Klinger scored 20 points and Patrick Stefan added 16. They were both among Millville’s best shooters in the first half. The Quakers couldn’t play much better than they did there, but Neumann’s execution still gave the Knights 17 points. Clay had a lot to do with it, scoring 23 points and providing six assists in the first half.
Neumann had Millville against the ropes and he wasted no time delivering the knockout blow in the third quarter. Six players scored and Neumann made 11 of 16 shots as he never let Millville get closer to 15 again. Coleman scored four straight points to make it a 27-point game and he and Wright played some of their best basketball at a key moment.
Wright filled out the stat sheet, scoring 10 points, grabbing six rebounds and adding two steals. Coleman scored eight points and made 4 of 6 shots. Chase Wright and Corey Agnew helped Neumann surge after the starters exit as well and Neumann reached 100 points for the second time this season.
“These guys play their part and understand the game and let it come to them,” said Clay. “It was good that they understood their roles and went in their place. I’m glad these guys had time and played well.
Saturday’s semi-final meeting of Neumann and Lourdes includes a showdown between the programs that have won the last four district championships.
Eli Klinger 9 2-4 20, Micah Savide 0 0-0 0, Patrick Stefan 7 1-3 16, Landon Evans 5 2-2 12, Hayden Waver 1 0-0 2, Jacob Fought 2 0-0 6. Totals 24 5-9 56.
Davion Hill 9 2-2 21, Hanief Clay 13 6-7 35, Nasser Dymeck 4 2-2 10, JerVal Weeks-Shuler 4 0-1 8, Naz Smith 2 0-0 4, Josiah Coleman 4 0-0 8, Kane Wright 4 0-0 10, Chase Wright 1 0-0 2, Corey Agnew 1 0-0 2, Angelo Fernandez 0 0-0 0. Totals 42 10-12 100.
Millville 17 19 14 6-56
Neuman 28 25 24 23-100
3 points: Millville 3 (Fought 2, Stefan); Neumann 6 (Clay 3, K. Wright 2, Hill).
Records: Neumann 20-3. Millville 3-19.