MUNCY - Noah Beiter probably led the St. John Neumann boys basketball team in weights lifted last offseason. He is a traditional grinder who often has to guard bigger and heavier post players, so he prepared the best way he knew how.
An overflowing Muncy crowd witnessed the benefit of that relentless offseason work Friday night.
Beiter played sensational defense on Muncy standout center Nick Ring despite giving up at least five inches and 50 pounds. He rarely let the sometimes dominant player touch the basketball and held Ring to only three points and three shots when guarding him. That stifling defense and Jordan Cole's career-high 24 points were a potent combination and Neumann downed Muncy, 60-46 while becoming the first basketball team in school history to start 12-0.
"When coach assigned me to him I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I just went as hard as I could and I knew I had help behind me if he got by me," said Beiter, who also had four rebounds, a block and a steal. "It's pretty tough because he's one of the bigger guys we've played, but I always get excited when coach puts me against one of their leading scorers. It gives me a little more incentive so I was really excited for the challenge."
Ring is averaging a double-double and made his impact felt, scoring 13 points and grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds. Only three of those points came against Beiter. Not counting putbacks, Beiter held Ring to three shots and would not let Muncy get the ball to a player with a great touch around the basket.
Beiter used his quickness and toughness to his advantage and was draped to Ring all night. That played a big role in disrupting Muncy's dangerous offense and Neumann (12-0, 7-0 HAC-III) took advantage, forcing seven third-quarter turnovers and turning a one-point halftime lead into a 42-30 advantage entering the fourth.
The Knights have four players averaging in double figures and all played well. But Beiter can exert just as much influence on a game with his defense as Muncy (8-3, 5-2) now knows.
"Noah deserves a lot of credit because he made him (Ring) work for everything he got," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "He is a powerful young man. Defense has become his specialty. I give him a lot of the better players and a lot of the more physical players because he can bang with them and if they want to bang him with him he can do it all night long like he did tonight."
While Beiter sparked the defense, Cole and Tyree Vidal ignited the offense. Cole scored 17 of his career-high 23 points in the second half, made 7 of 12 shots and played well in all facets, while adding three assists and three steals. The senior guard was feeling so good he even made a behind-the-head shot while being fouled in the third quarter.
"Jordan has the best shot I've seen in a while," Beiter said. "He was on fire in the second half. He helped us get that lead and he was incredible."
Vidal heated up toward the end of the first half and helped erase a three-point deficit while giving Neumann a 21-20 halftime lead it did not relinquish. The senior forward made a lot of hustle plays and finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three steals. Alize Johnson added nine rebounds while Richard Allen had seven assists and played outstanding defense. Ryan Reid added six points off the bench, making all three of his shots.
Led by Beiter and Allen, Neumann changed the game's complexion with its defense, forcing seven third-quarter turnovers, five which came in the first three minutes. The Knights opened up a 10-point lead at that point and extended it to as many as 17 in the fourth. Neumann created offense with its defense and Cole helped put the game away with a steal and layup that made it 54-38 late in the fourth quarter.
"When we came in at halftime they weren't happy with themselves and we gave them some pointers and they basically took it upon themselves to play good defense," Petcavage said. "Allen played tremendous defense and is another guy that steps up as a defensive player each game."
Ammar Sabanovic played some great defense of his own, holding Johnson to nine points after he had topped 20 in three straight games. It was an impressive display since Sabanovic was giving up at least seven inches. The senior point guard also scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dealt four assists.
Beiter prevented Ring from getting a lot of touches, but the junior still hit the boards hard and had seven rebounds after the first quarter. The Indians lost to Neumann by 20 at home last year but beat it in overtime on its home court a month later so they are not fretting this loss.
"They did a good job defensively and we just couldn't get into our offense," Muncy coach Jason Gresh said. "We're going to see this team again so it's a long season yet. It's not enough to get worked up over yet. We're still trying to figure it out."
Alize Johnson 4 1-2 9, Jordan Cole 10 1-3 23, Richard Allen 3 1-3 7, Tyree Vidal 5 3-8 13, Noah Beiter 1 0-0 2, Ryan Reid 3 0-0 6. Totals 25 5-16 60.
Ammar Sabanovic 6 4-7 16, Nick Ring 6 3-4 15, Dawson Fox 1 1-1 3, Billy Kolletzki 0 3-6 3, Teddy Clark 3 1-3 9, Jeff Scott 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 11-21 46.
Neumann11 10 21 18-60
Muncy10 10 10 16-46
3-pointers: Neumann 2 (Cole 2); Muncy 2 (Clark 2).
Records: Neumann 12-0, 7-0 HAC-III. Muncy 8-3, 5-2. JV Score: Muncy 72-63.
High Scorers: Eli Warnick, M, 22; Isaac Beiter, N, 25