By Anthony Mitchell
The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP —
Seemingly everyone in the crowd was rooting for it happen, so Larry McNeil took a few long steps and happily obliged.
With the final seconds ticking away and the game in hand, McNeill rose from the Lourdes Regional floor and slammed the ball home.
The few seconds of flight for the Mahanoy Area product summarized the theme of a 86-65 win by the Surrounding Counties team in the Northumberland Counties Senior All-Star Game Sunday night.
Taking shots which under normal circumstances may give a player a warm spot on the pine next to their head coach for a few minutes, were flying on nearly every possession as it was clear from the smiles from players that the game was solely about fun, regardless of the final score.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Northumberland Counties and Danville guard Zach Kozick said. “It’s different playing against the guys you always hated and you wanted to beat, playing with them, it’s definitely a fun experience and I just enjoyed playing one last time.”
It was just fun to get out there one last time with the guys that I’ve been playing with since I was seven years old,” Kozick said.
The Surrounding Counties team — consisting of players from Midd-West, Central Columbia, Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, North Schuylkill, Mahanoy Area and Selinsgrove — used a rebound-and-sprint game plan to quickly turn a tight game into a comfortable lead.
“I think they enjoyed it,” Surrounding Counties and Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “They get the chance to meet some new guys they hadn’t played with before. It was just fun to see the kids get out and have some fun, enjoy each other.”
Quickly moving the ball in transition, the Surrounding Counties made their way to the rim or stepped back for open looks to pull in front.
The Northumberland County team — which features players from Shamokin, Lourdes, Danville, Mount Carmel, Southern Columbia, Shikellamy, Milton and Warrior Run — evened the score at 32 on a free throw out of the halftime break.
Spotting up for jumpers, the Surrounding Counties scored seven straight points to take the lead, with a jumper for Mifflinburg’s Jeremy Uscowskas providing the last bucket.
Mount Carmel’s Ben Scicchitano stopped the run with a layup off of a feed from Warrior Run’s Zach Miller. Both team traded buckets with Shamokin’s Austin Stine drilling a corner 3-pointer before the Surrounding Counties put together another unanswered stretch. scoring nine straight points to push their lead into double digits, 54-37. Mahanoy Area’s Dylan Mahmod became a one-man show during the run, swishing a 3-pointer from five feet behind the line and splitting the defense for a layup on the next possession.
Refusing to go away, Southern Columbia’s Cody Olson brought his team back to within single digits with nine straight points. Olson let go of a runner from the elbow and found the bottom of the net before stealing the ball and driving in for a layup to cut the lead to 57-48.
After pushing their lead back into double digits, Mahmod put his athleticism on display as McNeill came away with a steal, lobbed the ball ahead to Mahmod and Mahmod sprang off of the floor to jam it home.
The quick dunk was the crowning aerial moment after both teams had tried throughout the game to connect on an alley-oop in transition but had been unable to nail down the timing on the play.