Pictured above: Jenna Hillebrand follows through on the last of her eight straight made free throws in Sunday’s win for the NEPA Elite 16U Rini team.
By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
MANHEIM – Jenna Hillebrand made sure NEPA Elite left Select Events Basketball’s The Prime Event East on a winning note.
Hillebrand scored all 18 of her points in the second half of the final game of the weekend to lift the NEPA Elite 16U Rini girls team to a 49-46 victory over I-90 Elite in a 16U Platinum Division consolation bracket game.
The win meant all six girls teams posted at least one win on Sunday, the second day of the two-day event. NEPA Elite teams combined to go 8-4 on the day and 12-12 on the weekend in an event that included many entries from programs sponsored by the major sneaker companies.
A recap of each team’s games on Sunday:
NEPA Elite 17U Macciocco
NEPA Elite opened the day with a 41-23 romp over Team Voltage before losing to Black Rock Fury, 47-31, in 17U Silver Division consolation bracket games.
The team lost twice Saturday, including 41-38 to Team Thrill National in its opener, as part of a 1-3 week.
NEPA Elite combined crisp passing on the offensive end with a strong defensive effort to open leads of 24-4 late in the first half 32-8 early in the second half against Team Voltage.
All seven players on the team had a steal in the first half and NEPA Elite held Team Voltage without a field goal for more than 12 minutes.
Mackenzie Perluke and Brenna Hunt each had four points during a 12-0 run to the 24-4 lead. Ella Cooper assisted each of them once and also scored on a drive during the run.
Perluke had 10 of her team-high 12 points in the first half and also grabbed 5 rebounds.
Mackenzie Schirg added nine points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.
Hunt had eight points, six rebounds and four steals.
Ella Cooper had six points, four assists and three steals.
Jewlya McCullon went 2-for-4 on 3-pointers.
NEPA Elite held Team Voltage to 2-for-15 shooting overall in the first half and did not allow a 3-pointer in the game.
The team committed just two turnovers prior to giving the ball up five more times in the final 4:30.
Perluke is from Wyoming Valley West, Hunt is from Lake-Lehman, Schirg from Lackawanna Trail, Cooper from Valley View and McCullon from Old Forge.
NEPA Elite 16U Rini
NEPA Elite is getting plenty of practice working through close, late-game situations.
Hillebrand and Daniella Ranieli led the team down the stretch in the win over I-90 Elite.
Both NEPA Elite wins during the weekend at Spooky Nook came in close games. Ranieli hit two free throws for the team’s only points of overtime Saturday during a 52-51 victory over Lady Rivals.
NEPA Elite is 15-8 on the season, including 1-3 one-point games and 4-4 in one-possession games (those decided by 3 or fewer points).
“It’s frustrating to have all these close games when we know we could be better,” Hillebrand said, “but, it definitely helps to be in it a whole bunch of times to know what to do. It helps to keep your focus more.”
Ranieli hit a baseline, pull-up jumper with 1:22 left to break the last tie and put NEPA Elite in front, 45-43.
I-90 Elite made one of two free throws before Hillebrand made both ends of a one-and-one with 44.7 seconds left.
NEPA Elite went 4-for-5 from the line in the last 45 seconds with Ranieli also making two.
Hillebrand helped preserve the win by clearing a defensive rebound with eight seconds left and the team up by three.
NEPA Elite overcame being outrebounded, 46-24, completing a tough weekend against teammates with distinct height advantages.
Sophia Talutto made five steals, Hillebrand three and Ranieli and Maggie O’Shea two each.
Maggie Coleman led the rebounding effort with seven while Talutto contributed five.
After Hillebrand’s 18 points, which included 8-for-8 on free throws, the rest of the scoring was balanced. Four players finished between six and eight points.
Ranieli had eight points and a team-high three assists.
Talutto and Claire McGrath scored seven each. Coleman made two 3-pointers while adding six.
NEPA Elite cut a 10-point deficit midway through the first half to 21-16 at the break with the help of 3-pointers by O’Shea and Talutto.
Hillebrand took it from there. She scored the first eight points of the second half on two 3-pointers sandwiched around two free throws she earned after taking a rebound coast-to-coast.
“I just knew they were pushing at us, so we had to push back,” Hillebrand said. “I just wanted to do my part, get to the rim when it was open and the zone was open in the middle.”
Hillebrand finished 4-for-6 from the floor in the second half, hitting her only two 3-point attempts along with being perfect on the foul line.
NEPA used another surge to open a 35-27 lead. Hillebrand hit four free throws in an 11-0 run that Coleman capped with a 3-pointer from the left wing after one of the team’s 13 steals.
Before beating I-90 Elite in the finale, NEPA Elite lost its first 16U Platinum consolation bracket game, 57-46, to Comets GUAA.
Hillebrand was also the top scorer in the loss to Comets GUAA with 13 points, including 8 in the second half. She led the team in rebounds with five and steals with two.
Ranieli added 10 points. O’Shea had nine points and four assists. Talutto had eight points.
NEPA Elite shot 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from 3-point range in the loss, but was again hurt on the boards, 38-19.
O’Shea made all three of her 3-point attempts while McGrath and Talutto each went 2-for-2. Hillebrand and Ranieli also made a pair of 3-pointers.
Hillebrand and McGrath are also high school teammates at Scranton Prep. Ranieli is from Pittston Area, Talutto from Dunmore, Coleman from Abington Heights and O’Shea from Scranton.
NEPA Elite 16U Butler
NEPA Elite lost its first 16U Gold consolation bracket game, 49-29, to Comets Select-Coleman, then defeated Virginia Hurricanes, 34-28.
Bella Dennebaum scored five points in a 12-0 run that erased the last deficit in the victory over Virginia.
NEPA Elite scored the game’s first eight points and only trailed twice early in the second half – 19-18 and 21-20.
Teagan Strunk worked her way inside for the go-ahead basket, then Nevaeh Baran found Ryleigh Kilmer for a 3-pointer. After two baskets and a free throw by Dennebaum, Kathryn Morgan completed the 12-0 run to make it 32-21.
The Hurricanes scored seven straight to get within four, but Dennebaum made both ends of a one-and-one with nine seconds left to close the scoring.
Dennebaum finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals.
Baran added 8 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists.
Strunk had seven rebounds and three blocked shots. She helped the team to a 44-38 advantage on the boards.
Kilmer chipped in five rebounds while Madeline O’Shea and Morgan had four each.
Riley Turner blocked two shots.
Dennebaum had 17 points in the morning loss.
Kilmer and Turner are from Mountain View; Dennebaum is from Scranton Prep; Strunk from East Stroudsburg; Baran from Nanticoke, Morgan from Lake-Lehman; and O’Shea from Scranton.
NEPA Elite 15U Scoblick
NEPA Elite won its final 15U Pool A game to begin the day, beating WeR1/Lady Sharks, 53-37.
That set up NEPA Elite’s Pool A-C consolation game, which it wound up winning by forfeit over Team Swith-Jess. As a replacement, NEPA Elite played United NJ Diamond in an exhibition game and won, 55-27.
NEPA Elite 14U Clark
NEPA Elite picked up its second straight win in the losers’ bracket, 51-43, over New York Royals, then lost its finale to Team Melo from Baltimore, 63-46.
Zya Small had 17 points and 17 rebounds, including 9 offensive, in the win. She also made three steals, blocked two shots and had two assists.
Jackie Gallagher, Cora Castellani and Ella Clementoni all scored 10 points.
Gallagher, who hit two first-half 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and made two steals. Castellani also had two steals.
Team Melo’s Bailey Harris put together an excellent game with 29 points, 7 defensive rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists in the last game.
Small had eight points while NEPA Elite was taking a 16-13 lead before the midway point in the first half, but the team struggled offensively, shooting just 25 percent the rest of the way.
Team Melo went ahead with seven straight points, but NEPA Elite forced the final tie at 20-20 on baskets by Kam Gallis and Small.
Small was then called for her third and fourth fouls and left the game seven points into the 15-point streak that Team Melo used to take control.
Bailey had 9 points in the streak and 17 in the first half.
NEPA Elite was led by Small with 16 points and 2 blocked shots.
Gallagher had eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Castellani had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Small is from Scranton, is from Crestwood, Castellani is from Valley View, Clementoni is from North Pocono and Gallis is from Notre Dame of Bethlehem.
NEPA Elite 14U Alers
NEPA Elite finished 2-1 for second place in 14U Pool H where only the champion advanced into bracket play.
The team won its only game of the day, 52-38, over BBA.
Cora Castellani, who added another basket, and Jaelyn Alers each made two 3-pointers during a 15-2 run late in the first half to open a 26-10 lead.
BBA got within 29-24 by answering with a 14-3 run, but NEPA Elite pulled away again, starting with a Kayli McHugh 3-pointer with 10 minutes left. That started an 8-1 burst capped by another McHugh 3-pointer and BBA was never within single digits again.
NEPA Elite finished with nine 3-pointers, three by McHugh and two each by Kam Gallis, Castellani and Alers.
McHugh scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.
Jackie Gallagher added 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Castellani scored 10 points, Emma Coleman grabbed 8 rebounds and Abby Schneider dished out three assists.
Coleman and Schneider are from Abington Heights; McHugh is from North Pocono; and Alers is from Scranton.