By Tom Robinson,
EAST STROUDSBURG – The NEPA Elite Coyle 17U boys team had moments of offensive brilliance Saturday, but the team’s formula for success could be found elsewhere.
Defending, rebounding and protecting the basketball set the team up to cruise through wins of 25 and 26 points in the first day of The Hoop Group Summer Warm Up, a two-day boys event at East Stroudsburg University.
NEPA Elite teams finished the day with a combined 4-4 record.
The Coyle team, facing the highest level of competition available at the event, led the way, setting itself up for one – and possibly a second – important game Sunday.
Defense established itself early in both games.
The Coyle team held New Jersey Prospects scoreless for the first 4:52 and without a field goal for the first 5:55 of a 67-42 romp in the opener.
Then, it forced 12 first-half turnovers in a 66-40 rout of Athletes Plus.
“It’s all attributed to our defensive effort,” coach Brian Coyle said. “In July, we tend to do well because the system starts coming into place. Guys know where to be and what’s showing is our defensive effort.
“This is some of the best defense I’ve seen in a lot of the years that I’ve coached – the way we’re scrambling, the way we’re hustling. We’re undersized in every game that we play and we’re leading in the boards.”
The Coyle team outrebounded Athletes Plus, 14-5, in the second half to finish the day plus-18 on the boards.
After going 8:31 without committing a turnover to begin the day, the team went 11:20 in the second game. It finished with just 10 total turnovers in the 2 games.
A recap of the Saturday games for all the games involving the club out of Riverfront Sports in Scranton:
NEPA Elite Coyle 17U
Five players scored at least eight points in the first win, then four finished in double figures in the second as NEPA Elite set up a Sunday morning 9:10 battle with New Heights to decide the Pool A title and reach one of three Sunday afternoon playoff games pitting pool champions against each other.
Eli Yusavage started strong in both games and finished in double figures in each.
Six of the team’s nine players scored in double figures in at least one of the games.
Mikey Cumbo had 15 points, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots against New Jersey. Ben Chilson scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Yusavage added 11 points and 3 assists.
Gabe Tanner scored 17 points, made 4 steals and dished out 3 assists against Athletes Plus. Ryan Nealon scored 11 points and dished out 5 assists. Tristan Lee went 5-for-7 from the floor while scoring 10 points.
Yusavage sandwiched 3-pointers from each corner around a Gabe Gonzales three-point play before Chilson added a free throw in a 10-0 start in the opener.
The Prospects scored the next 7 points before NEPA Elite ran off another 10 straight, the last 5 by Cumbo, for a 20-7 lead.
New Jersey never got closer than 10 again and the NEPA Elite lead grew to 35-18 at halftime.
Wil Marion, who had three assists, and Lee scored eight points each.
Zach Perta had a game-high four assists.
There were four lead changes and six ties until near the midpoint of the first half against Athletes Plus before NEPA Elite went on a 20-4 run to end the half with a 38-22 lead.
“We know they were a really good team, that they could shoot the ball and that they like to get out and run,” Tanner said. “We just looked at the game that if defensively we stopped them, our offense would take care of itself.
“That’s really what happened. Defensively, we got on them early and we kept playing.”
Tanner started the run with the first 8 points and added another basket during it to finish the half with 14 points.
After finishing the half on the 20-4 run, NEPA Elite outscored Athletes Plus 20-9 to begin the second half and open the lead to 55-27. The extended 40-13 run included 13 points from Tanner and 9 from Yusavage.
Yusavage again finished with 11 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists.
Marion added six points and four assists.
Nealon and Marion are from Abington Heights. Yusavage is from Valley View, Cumbo is from Dallas, Chilson from Tunkhannock, Gonzales from Holy Cross, Lee from West Scranton and Perta from Holy Redeemer. Tanner, who had been playing at Mid Valley, is headed to Perkiomen School.
NEPA Elite Cooper 17U
The NEPA Elite Cooper 17U team used a fast start to turn back Lehigh Valley Force 2023 National, 59-43, but was unable to overcome a similar start by Tokyo Samurai Black while falling, 68-56.
NEPA Elite went 1-1 in the 2023 Division Pool D where it has one game left Sunday morning.
Justin Love scored seven points in each half for a team-high 14 in the victory over Lehigh Valley.
Patrick Walsh led the way with nine points while NEPA Elite was building a 36-17 halftime lead. He then grabbed 7 rebounds in the second half to finish with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
Walsh had five straight points for a 17-4 lead.
After the Force scored, Jajuan Nicholls had a pair of dunks as NEPA Elite scored seven of the next eight points to increase the lead to 24-7.
Dane Schutter had seven points.
Mason Fedor scored six points in the first half, then contributed five rebounds and two blocks in the second half.
Kole Conforti also had six points.
The team’s second game had an international flavor and the opponent from Japan put on an early show with a 17-2 start.
Fedor had 5 points as NEPA Elite fought back by scoring the next 11 on the way to closing within 21-19.
Nicholls led the way with 18 points and 2 blocked shots.
Fedor had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Walsh added 11 points, 8 rebounds and a team-leading 5 assists. Joe Macciocco chipped in seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
The teams continued to trade surges with Samurai opening a 17-point lead twice early in the second half before NEPA Elite closed to within 59-51 with a minute left on consecutive Nicholls dunks.
Nicholls, a former Holy Cross player, now lives in North Carolina. He was back with his old AAU team for the first time this season.
Walsh and Fedor are from Abington Heights. Love is from Pocono Mountain West; Schutter from Wyoming Area; Conforti from Scranton and Macciocco from Old Forge.
NEPA Elite Joyce 16U
The NEPA Elite Joyce 16U team split two games to finish second in the three-team 2024 Division Pool A.
NEPA Elite opened with a 51-37 victory over The City and had an early lead before falling to New Jersey Prospects, 66-54.
Pressure, particularly out of the team’s run-and-jump defense, helped produce the opening win in the first set of morning games to begin the event.
Coach Corey Joyce said the team also moved the ball well for most of the game to get open shots.
Ricky Vinansky helped NEPA Elite take leads of 6-0 and 14-6 before New Jersey built a 25-10 advantage over the remaining 11 minutes of the first half of the team’s second game.
Vinansky scored the game’s first two baskets and Nicholas Williams scored on a breakaway off a Brycen Martin steal for the 6-0 lead.
The Prospects were within 8-6 before Vinansky hit consecutive 3-pointers, making him 4-for-4 and giving him 10 points in the first 4:45.
Jalik Nicholls made his last six free throws to finish 7-for-9 from the line in the second half and 10-for-13 in the game. He had a team-high 14 points, along with 5 rebounds.
Vinansky finished with 13 points.
Chase Scanlan added six points and five rebounds.
Martin had a team-high six rebounds and three assists.
Robby Lucas led with five steals and shared the assist lead with Martin.
Vinansky is from Mid Valley. Nicholls, formerly from Holy Cross, now lives in North Carolina. Scanlan and Martin are from Scranton Prep. Lucas is from Abington Heights.
NEPA Elite finishes up Sunday at 11:30 a.m. against Canada Elite 4th Quarter White, the second-place team from Pool B.
NEPA Elite 15U
NEPA Elite lost 2025 Division Pool A games to Riverside Select 2025, 59-49, and Team Final Black 2025, 46-20.
The team has one pool game left Sunday morning with only the four pool winners advancing to championship bracket play.