By Tom Robinson and Ben Magnotta, NEPAElite.com
SCRANTON – Each of the four NEPA Elite boys teams posted its first victory while getting the season underway Saturday in the prospect-filled, third annual KYDA Invitational.
NEPA Elite teams went a combined 6-3 on the day.
They played games at Riverfront Sports, the University of Scranton’s John Long Center and Byron Recreation Complex and Lackawanna College and will be back at each of those sites, except Lackawanna, Sunday for the conclusion of the event.
NEPA Elite 17U Coyle
Playing at the Long Center and mixing it up with the high-profile teams in the highest-level division, the NEPA Elite 17U Coyle team won its opener and put together an impressive comeback before losing its second KYDA Division 17U boys Pool A game.
NEPA Elite defeated Philly Pride Select, 69-43, then lost to Adidas-sponsored New York Wiz Kids, 69-62.
Chris Cornish, a new addition to the team from Charlotte, Fla., came off the bench to share high-scoring honors in the win and lead the team during the loss.
Cornish and Mason Fedor scored 16 points each in the opener. Fedor also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots.
Ryan Nealon added 11 points, 3 assists and 2 steals while Will Marion had 10 points.
Drew Erickson led in rebounds with 11 while matching Nealon and Oliver Almonte for the team lead in assists with three.
Ricky Vinansky made three steals and George Sabatini blocked two shots.
NEPA Elite started fast behind the Abington Heights combination of Fedor, Marion and Nealon.
Fedor scored on consecutive putbacks and a Marion steal set up two Almonte free throws for a 6-0 lead as NEPA Elite forced four turnovers before allowing a shot.
Nealon and Marion drained consecutive 3-pointers, as part of a 2-for-3 start from long range and eight points for each in the first quarter, before Cornish’s drive made it 14-1.
NEPA Elite ran off 11 more points with two Cornish dunks and 3-pointers by Marion and Vinansky for a 34-11 lead early in the second quarter.
Philly Pride got back within 40-26 before Sabatini scored the last two baskets of the first half and NEPA Elite was not threatened again.
Syracuse commit Elijah Moore led the Wiz Kids with 22 points in the win over NEPA Elite.
Moore, ranked as the No. 61 recruit in the country by Rivals.com, had 12 points in the second quarter when Wiz Kids built the lead to 38-23.
That advantage grew to 22 points in the third quarter before NEPA Elite rallied to have a shot at the tie – a desperation, length-of-the-floor heave off a missed free throw – in the final second.
Cornish led NEPA Elite with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Fedor added 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
Jalen Lynn had four points and an assist in the Wiz Kid’s 10-1 run to a 48-26 lead midway through the third quarter.
NEPA Elite immediately began its comeback with a 13-0 run.
Cornish had six points in the run along with an offensive rebound that he turned into an assist. Fedor had four points, plus a steal and assist. Vinansky scored off Fedor’s steal and also grabbed an offensive rebound to make a feed to Cornish for one of his scores.
NEPA Elite still needed another surge to make the game close.
That came after a timeout with 5:14 remaining, facing a 57-43 deficit.
Cornish started it with a three-point play, Nealon hit a corner 3-pointer and Cornish unleashed a powerful dunk in transition.
After the Wiz Kids scored, Fedor added the last five points of a 13-2 run to make it 59-56 with a minute to play.
Wiz Kids kept NEPA Elite from having a shot at completing the comeback by scoring on each possession from there until it missed two free throws with 1.1 seconds left.
Almonte is from Scranton, Vinansky from Mid Valley, Sabatini from Holy Redeemer and Erickson from Seton Catholic in Binghamton, N.Y.
NEPA Elite 17U Frank
NEPA Elite won 71-48 over PA Flight Select in a 17U Pool B game before also beating PA Flight Elite, a Pool A team, 63-57, in its second game at the Byron Complex.
Chris Ogden hit seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points in the second win while Daniel Santaniello had 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
Ogden had six of his 3-pointers and 22 points for a 33-31 lead at halftime.
NEPA Elite then opened some breathing room with a 9-2 start to the second half.
Ogden is from West Scranton and Santaniello is from Scranton Prep.
NEPA Elite 16U Tillery
NEPA Elite won two of its three games in a busy first day.
After losing to Marston Elite 16U Purple in a 16U Pool A game, NEPA Elite won its next two, both Pool A/B games.
NEPA Elite defeated ECP Select McGowan, 65-45, then moved from Riverfront, where it had played its first two games, to Lackawanna College.
NEPA Elite concluded its first day with a 60-43 win over KYDA Empowerment.
NEPA Elite 15U Dempsey
NEPA Elite lost to ECP HGSL Romanello, 62-58, and beat Rising Stars from New York, 53-48, in 15U Pool A games at the Byron Complex.
Jordan Shaffer had two 3-pointers in an 8-0 start to the second half to open a 14-point lead against Rising Stars.
Shaffer is from Abington Heights.