MMI’s Fran Swankoski and Nanticoke Stephen Swicklick go after a loose ball in Nanticoke Tuesday evening.S.John Wilkin/Times Leader
NANTICOKE – Under absolutely no circumstances was Nanticoke going to let MMI Prep’s Tyler Breznitsky get off a final shot in the waning seconds.
The sharpshooter guard had done too much damage to that point Tuesday night, leading a team that looked incredibly flat in the first quarter to an incredible comeback journey.
Thanks to a defensive double team by Josh Olzinski and Darian Twyman, Breznitsky never had the opportunity.
Twyman made a steal and then an ensuing foul shot with 5.8 seconds to play as Nanticoke escaped with a 63-62 victory over the Preppers in a Wyoming Valley Conference boys basketball interdivisional game.
MMI managed to get one final shot, but Justin Yakubowski’s hasty three-point heave banged off the rim at the buzzer.
Twyman’s free throw, which came after he missed his first attempt, kept Nanticoke (3-0 Div. III, 11-7 overall) in first place in its division. MMI (2-1 Div. IV, 10-8) dropped to second place in its division.
Breznitsky finished with a game-high 31 points, rallying the Preppers from a 53-43 deficit early in the fourth quarter to a 56-53 lead with 3:29 to play.
“I’m really proud the way we hung in there,” MMI coach Joe Flanagan said. “Every time they made a run, we would just battle back and battle back.”
The battle appeared as if it would be lost early. Nanticoke opened the game by scoring the first eight points, including the 1,000th of senior guard Sean Bieski’s career. Meanwhile, MMI was just 2-of-14 from the field and fell behind 14-5.
By midway through the second, Nanticoke was up 22-11 and rolling behind Bieski and center Cael Evans, who was just getting started on his 25-point night.
A rout seemed a few baskets away.
“I was thinking that, too,” said Bieski, who finished with 18 points. “We let them back in the game, and that was our fault. We broke down defensively.”
Breznitsky demonstrated what he could do with the slightest opening. He scored 12 points in the second quarter and followed up with 11 in the third, connecting on 9-of-13 shots.
Abruptly, Nanticoke found itself trailing for a good portion of the third quarter and Nanticoke coach Ken Bartuska knew exactly why.
“They have this kid Tyler Breznitsky and man is he a handful,” Bartuska said. “We never played them before and this was actually the first time I’ve seen them play and I was impressed.
“We threw two guys at him, we threw fast guys at him, we threw tall guys at him. He found his way through everybody. He outplayed everybody on the floor tonight.”
Nanticoke regained the lead in the latter part of the fourth when Evans hit two inside baskets and a pair of free throws. MMI took the lead for the final time, 62-60 with 47.8 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Breznitsky, but Evans tied the score with 22.1 seconds remaining on his fourth basket of the quarter.
MMI PREP (62): Breznitsky 11 6-8 31, Beuhring 4 5-7 13, Kost 2 0-2 4, Sauers 0 0-0 0, Yakubowski 3 4-5 10, Forte 1 2-2 4, Swankoski 1 2-2 4, Duffy 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 17-24 62.
NANTICOKE (63): Olzinski 0 0-0 0, Bieski 8 2-2 18, Victor 1 0-1 2, Twyman 3 2-4 8, Smith 1 0-0 2, Kmietowicz 1 0-0 2, Evans 11 3-4 25, Swicklik 1 0-1 2. Totals 27 9-13 63.
3-Point Field Goals— MMI 3 (Breznitsky 3)
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