Most expected Michael Wenner to take the final shot for St. John Neumann on Friday night as he pounded the ball into the court at Montoursville High School and watched the clock tick away with each dribble.
The probability likely rose when the senior penetrated the paint with 10 seconds remaining in a tie game. But as he approached the basket, he saw trusted sidekick Alize Johnson.
Wenner delivered a pass to Johnson who passed on his own shot and found Tyree Vidal under the basket, and the junior put the Knights in an unlikely spot - the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
St. John Neumann players celebrate after beating Mahanoy Area Friday night at Montoursville. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
Vidal's game-winning bouncing bucket with 3.4 seconds remaining Friday night gave St. John Neumann a 46-44 victory over District 11 runner-up Mahanoy Area.
"It bounced around a little bit and I was very scared but he got it in," said Johnson. "We always pick on him about how he misses layups in practice, but he got that one."
Following Vidal's basket, the Bears immediately inbounded the ball and called timeout. The officials needed to gather to put the correct time on the clock during a timeout and when Mahanoy Area returned to the court it had a generous 2.9 seconds to attempt a game-tying or winning shot.
Vidal knocked the first inbounds play out of bounds and erased another 5-tenths of a second. With 2.4 seconds left, Mahanoy lobbed a pass from the sideline into 6-foot-3 sophomore Tyler Cavanes. The bulky big man made a terrific catch, collected himself and cleared a St. John Neumann defender, but his shot came up short and he collapsed to the court after the ball in disbelief as St. John Neumann players celebrated near midcourt.
"I never thought we'd be here," said Wenner.
The Knights (19-7) will play District 12 champ Constitution in Tuesday's second round.
Friday night's victory was an unlikely one for St. John Neumann. Just one year ago, the program suffered through a 2-win season and last night it trailed the Bears (19-7) by nine points late in the third quarter.
The Knights, however, stayed the course. When Mahanoy Area made 5 of 6 3-point attempts in the third quarter, the shoulders of St. John Neumann players never sank, and when Vidal made an acrobatic left-handed 3-pointer from between the 3-point line and midcourt as the third quarter expired, the Knights trailed by just six points.
"We always get yelled for shooting half-court shots at practice and messing around, but I think they paid off this time," said Wenner.
Jordan Cole made it a one-point game with a confident pull-up jumper and Wenner gave the Knights the lead with 3:31 left, forcing a Mahanoy Area timeout.
A Vidal steal and basket made it a 3-point game, but Cavanes tied at 44-all with a basket and free throw with 2:47 left.
Cavanes was tough to defend for the St. John Neumann post players, and he finished with a team-high 12 points.
Mike Gaval scored 11 and Neil Goodman nine. The two sharpshooters combined for six 3-pointers and the Knights, who entered last night with 156 3-point field goals, added eight to that total.
The Bears, though, proved to be streaky. They scored 17 points in the first quarter, but only three in the second. They added 19 more in the third quarter, but managed just five over the final 8 minutes.
"It was outrageous," said Wenner on the streaks put together by the Bears.
Wenner finished with 17 points for the Knights and he was sparked by a first-quarter buzzer-beating 3-pointer to pull the Knights within 17-11. The senior walked to the bench punching his chest after his first field goal and the energy fueled him to four blocks and 14 points over the final three quarters.
"I was having a rough time and I missed a couple of shots, a little bit of carryover from last game, too, where I didn't perform my best," said Wenner. "To hit that one breaks the ice a little bit and knocks the lid off the hoop."
Vidal added 15 points and was part of a perfect 6 of 6 night by Neumann at the line as he went 4 for 4. Cole, who did not start the game, added seven points off the bench.
Mahanoy Area (44)
Mike Gaval 4 0-0 11, Neil Goodman 3 0-0 9, Tyler Cavanes 5 2-5 12, Jim Baker 1 2-2 5, Andy Kozma 3 0-0 7, Kyle McGee 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 4-7 44.
St. John Neumann (46)
Conor Flynn 1 0-0 2, Tyree Vidal 5 4-4 15, Micahel Wenner 7 1-1 17, Patrick Roman 0 0-0 0, Alize Johnson 2 1-1 5, Noah Beiter 0 0-0 0, Jordan Cole 3 0-0 7, Ryan Reid 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 6-6 46.
Mahanoy Area17 3 19 5 - 44
St. John Neumann11 13 9 13 - 46
3-point goals: Mahanoy Area 8, St. John Neumann 4.
Records: St. John Neumann 19-7, Mahanoy Area 19-7.