Tyree Vidal admittedly has struggled offensively in his past two games, scoring just 11 points, including two in his latest effort. His coach Paul Petcavage recognized those numbers, too, so the game plan early on Tuesday night was to give Vidal an opportunity to put those low numbers behind him and give the Knights the fourth scorer they need as the second half of the season looms.
Vidal's teammates wasted little time getting him involved as he scored 10 first-quarter points on his way to a 16-point effort during the Knights' 67-49 victory over rival South Williamsport.
"The past three games I felt like I've been off and I don't know why," Vidal said. "I found my rhythm now, so that's good."
"Our intention was to get him on the board right off the bat," Petcavage said. "Once he gets in the scoring column, I think his energy level picks up so we made a conscience effort of getting him going early and he did and he did a lot from that point on."
In case anyone didn't know Neumann remained unbeaten and improved to 11-0, 5-0 HAC-III, the fans across the court from the Knights' bench chanted "undefeated" several times after time expired and their team lined up to shake hands.
St. John Neumann's 11th victory also clinched a District 4 Class A playoff spot.
A district playoff spot wasn't in doubt for the Knights after their 10-0 start and either was last night's game, despite falling behind 4-0. The early deficit was quickly erased and Neumann showed just how lethal its offense can be once it gets running the floor. South Williamsport opened last night's game in a zone, but several times in the first quarter that zone never had an opportunity to get set as Neumann players raced past South on their way to easy transition baskets after a Mounties' missed shot or turnover.
Vidal was in the middle of the running game and he finished with 10 first-quarter points. His offensive onslaught energized the senior and he also did a solid job of clearing the glass for the Knights.
"He was active and that is what I want from him," Petcavage said. "I want him to run the floor and get rebounds. I want him to score points, obviously, but when he is in there rebounding, he is so quick off his feet, it is a huge difference for us.
"He is that fourth scorer we need and he came through tonight."
After falling behind 4-0, Neumann scored 21 of the final 24 points in the first quarter and led 21-7, despite leading scorer Alize Johnson being held to two points.
"Transition baskets," said South Williamsport coach Matt Fisher. "We didn't get into our offensive sets. We came down and gave one pass, sometimes no pass, and forced up a shot and to their credit they blasted the ball right back at us and we didn't get back and recover very well. I don't think Vidal shot anything other than a layup in the first quarter."
Johnson, who finished with a game-high 21 points, showed his touch from the outside in the second quarter and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.
The Knights dominated the offensive glass in the middle stages of the second quarter, often getting second and third chances, but they struggled from the field after making 10 of 14 shots in the first quarter. Jordan Cole lessened the frustration of those second-quarter struggles with a single shot. The senior guard knocked down a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer and the Knights went to the break leading, 38-21.
"That was a microcosm of the first half," Fisher said. "We have the ball with 15 seconds left, run a play, miss a shot and they blast the ball right back down the sideline and hit Jordan Cole for an uncontested three to end the half."
Cole finished with 11 points to join Richard Allen (10), Johnson and Vidal in double figures. The quartet scored 58 of Neumann's 67 points.
St. John Neumann's lead continued to swell in the second and reached the mid-20s before South showed the grit and fight of a young team and closed the deficit back into the teens.
Bailey Rummings helped South (4-7, 2-4) make a small dent in the lead with six fourth-quarter points. He finished with 13 to lead the Mounties.
South Williamsport (49)
Riley Hengler 3 3-4 9, Alex Kita 2 0-0 5, Sean McCormick 1 4-4 6, Tyler Schonewolf 0 0-0 0, Bailey Rummings 6 1-2 13, Eric English 2 0-1 4, Cody Nelson 3 0-0 6, Riley Thomas 1 4-4 6. Totals: 18 12-15 49.
St. John Neumann (67)
Alize Johnson 7 5-5 21, Tyree Vidal 8 0-0 16, Jordan Cole 4 0-0 11, Richard Allen 5 0-0 10, Noah Beiter 1 0-0 2, Ryan Reid 2 1-2 5, Isaac Beiter 1 0-0 2, John Burfeindt 0 0-0 0, Cody Forsburg 0 0-0 0, Andrew Keeler 0 0-0 0, Otis Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 6-7 67.
South7 14 9 19 - 49
Neumann21 17 17 12 - 67
3-point goals: South 1 (McCormick); St. John Neumann 5 (Cole 3, Johnson 2).
JV score: South 61-51. Top scorers: Eric English, SW, 16; Otis Anderson, SJN, 13.
Records: St. John Neumann 11-0, 6-0 HAC-III; South 4-7, 2-4.
Next: St. John Neumann at Muncy, Fri.; South vs. Bloomsburg, Fri.