By Tom Robinson, NEPAElite.com
ATLANTIC CITY – Daniel Santaniello made his first six 3-point attempts Wednesday, but it was the shot he took from a driving opponent that most impressed coach Jeff Frank.
“The biggest play of the game, outside of his threes, was the late charge he took right under the rim,” the coach said after Santaniello scored 29 points while leading the NEPA Elite 17 Frank boys team to a 60-56 victory over PA Coalition Kolumber in a 17U Gold Division championship bracket game on the first day of The Hoop Group’s Atlantic City Jam Fest. “That was a winning play. Dan makes those all the time.
“I’m really happy with Dan.”
NEPA Elite teams went 3-1 with a four-point loss as the three-day event got underway at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Santaniello continued the hot shooting that he showed while scoring 17 points in the second half of the final game of the Summer Warm-Up Sunday at East Stroudsburg University. He was 4-for-4 from long range in the first half, including making three in a span of less than three minutes, doing all the scoring in a 9-1 run to a 24-19 lead with a minute left in the half.
“I think he just has a lot of confidence,” Frank said. “He’s shooting in-rhythm shots. He’s making great plays and he’s shooting shots that are within our offense, which I think is really helping him.”
Santaniello finished 9-for-12 from the floor, 6-for-7 on 3-pointers and 5-for-6 from the foul line. He also grabbed five rebounds and had the team’s only steal.
Nick Williams added a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds. He missed his first shot, then made his last five. Williams grabbed 12 of his rebounds on the defensive end, leading NEPA Elite to a 36-26 advantage on the boards.
“Nick can be a monster on the boards when he puts his mind to it and the majority of the time he is,” Frank said. “He was tonight and it was a huge part of our win.”
Chris Ogden chipped in seven points and four assists.
All nine players had at least one assist as NEPA Elite shot 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from 3-point range and 55.6 percent (20-for-36) overall from the floor.
There were 10 lead changes and 6 ties.
PAC scored nine straight points for the game’s biggest lead at 38-30 with 10:16 left.
Coming out of a timeout, Santaniello started NEPA Elite on the road back with consecutive 3-pointers. Ogden then followed with another and hit one of two free throws for a 40-40 tie.
PAC appeared to be restoring a two-possession lead, but Santaniello held his ground on a strong drive down the middle, drawing a charge that erased a basket and kept the deficit at two with 5:37 left.
Santaniello erased the last deficit by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 2:49 left, then put NEPA Elite ahead with a basket.
Demaja Dunston drove for a basket, then Ogden found Williams for another to complete the 8-0 run to a 56-50 lead.
Santaniello’s two free throws with 5.7 seconds left locked up the win and closed the scoring.
Santaniello is from Scranton Prep, Williams from Dallas, Ogden from West Scranton and Dunston is from Mid Valley.
A look at how the other three NEPA Elite teams entered did while playing once each on the day:
NEPA Elite 17U Coyle
NEPA Elite held Global Squad scoreless for the first 4:10 of the game, then without a field goal for the first 7:18 of the second half on the way to a 49-39 victory in a Hoop Group Showcase League 17U game.
Oliver Almonte and Mason Fedor combined to go 10-for-13 from the floor with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Almonte scored a team-high 15 points.
Ryan Nealon made three 3-pointers while scoring 11 points and making 2 steals.
Fedor was 5-for-6 with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Santaniello went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers, all in the second half, while adding nine points.
Mikey Cumbo joined Fedor with four assists each while joining Nealon and Cumbo with two steals.
The strong defense allowed NEPA Elite to overcome going 1-for-11 on 3-pointers to start the game, making the team 3-for-20 until the last minute.
NEPA Elite scored the game’s first seven points and led 14-5 with 8:24 left in the 15-minute half behind a 5-for-7 start from the floor and 2-for-3 start on 3-pointers with Nealon hitting both.
Fedor scored the team’s last six points of the first half, including his own 6-0 run to a 25-15 lead.
Jarvis Wright, who led Global Squad with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer to close the half and cut the deficit to 25-18.
NEPA Elite again scored the first seven points of the second half. The run extended to 12-3 and the lead got as high as 37-21 before Global Squad hit its first second-half field goal with 7:42 remaining.
Global Squad got as close as five when NEPA Elite scored just two points in a span of 6:08.
Almonte and Fedor converted putbacks to restart the offense, then Santaniello and Nealon hit 3-pointers in the last minute to put the game away.
Fedor and Nealon are from Abington Heights. Cumbo is from Dallas.
NEPA Elite 16U Tillery
NEPA Elite led most of the way before the New York Jayhawks tied the game with 1:28 left and went ahead with 30 seconds remaining in a 63-58 victory in the 16U Platinum 2 Division championship bracket game.
Robby Lucas led the way with 18 points and 2 steals in the loss. Jaheam Roberts added 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Brycen Martin had 11 points and 3 assists. Gerry Rose had five assists.
The game featured seven lead changes and four ties.
Ryan DeMarco hit back-to-back, 3-pointers 18 seconds apart for a 42-37 lead with 10 minutes left, one of two leads of five points by NEPA Elite in the second half.
The Jayhawks scored the game’s last nine points for the win.
Lucas is from Abington Heights, Roberts from Scranton, Martin from Scranton Prep, Rose from Riverside and DeMarco from Old Forge.
NEPA Elite 15U Dempsey
NEPA Elite carried an eight-point lead into the last two minutes and held off a late comeback by the Jersey Shore Predators for a 55-54 victory in the 15U Platinum 2 Division game.
Tony Battaglia drained both ends of a one-and-one with 6.8 seconds left for a four-point lead, giving the team the insurance it needed to withstand a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Ayden Agapito and Jordan Shaffer each scored 13 points and blocked 3 shots in the win. Agapito also had five rebounds while Shaffer made two steals.
Nate Aviles scored 10 points. Andrew Kettel added nine.
Battaglia also contributed six rebounds and three assists while Brody Martin had two steals.
Shaffer made three of the team’s nine 3-pointers while Agapito and Aviles hit two each. Shaffer had two 3-pointers and Aviles one in a 13-0 run to a 13-4 lead.
NEPA Elite did not trail again.
Kettel put together a personal 9-0 run to a 48-34 lead, the biggest of the game.
Shaffer and Kettel are from Abington Heights. Battaglia is from Scranton, Agapito from Crestwood, Martin from Scranton Prep and Aviles from Dunmore.