Trojan Basketball

Basketball: 4 WVC players earn all-state honors
Matt Bufano -Citizens Voice

It was a good year for boys basketball at local high schools.
As if the winter months hadn’t made that clear enough, Tuesday brought news that once again shined favorably upon the Wyoming Valley Conference and Lackawanna League.
District 2’s competing conferences combined to have eight players and two coaches recognized on the Pennsylvania Sports Writers’ All-State teams.
Representing the WVC are Hazleton Area teammates Josh Samec (second team) and Jeff Planutis (third team) in Class 6A, as well as Nanticoke Area’s Nate Kreitzer (third team) in 4A and Wyoming Seminary’s Dimitri Gnall (third team) in 3A.
“This year, he took his game up and his leadership up another level,” Nanticoke Area head coach John Beggs said of Kreitzer. “He’s a great competitor and he plays his best in the big games. Nate likes the prime time, he likes the big games, and he pushes his teammates.”
Kreitzer, a 5-foot-9 junior point guard, was the player most integral to his team’s success this past season in the WVC.
Playing for a team without any seniors, Kreitzer averaged 19.4 points per game and shot 80.3 percent on free throws.
He also made 80 3-pointers — including a few half-court heaves — for the Trojans, who went 20-6 and made the state tournament for the second year in a row.
“With everybody returning next year and coming off a state berth this year, we’re going to have high expectations,” said Beggs, adding that a district championship appearance at Mohegan Sun Arena is a top goal for 2018-19.

Gnall, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, was another player who thrived in the spotlight.
Gnall averaged 17.1 ppg for the Blue Knights, who went 22-5 and won a first-round state playoff game — the program’s first in 26 years.
“I think it’s a very well-deserved honor,” said former Sem head coach C.J. Kersey. “If you look at where he was as a sophomore and where he was as a junior, what stood out was how consistently good he was during the year. I thought during the sophomore year, he was good at times. But during junior year, he was good almost all the time.”
No opponent intimidated Gnall, including state championship Neumann-Goretti, which, although it eliminated Sem from the PIAA playoffs, allowed Gnall to score a game-high 26 points.
“He could shoot the 3, he could drive, he could post up, he could score from anywhere on the court,” Kersey said. “That makes him a really, really tough player to match up with.”
Together, Samec and Planutis led the Cougars to the District 2 Class 6A championship and one win short of the state final in their senior year.
Samec averaged 15.2 ppg and was named The Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year. Planutis added 15.6 ppg.
The three WVC schools represented in all-state also swept the league championships this year, with Hazleton Area winning Division 1, Nanticoke Area Division 2 and Wyoming Seminary Division 3.
The state champion Abington Heights Comets easily outperformed all local schools in Tuesday’s announcement, though.
Teammates Jackson Danzig and George Tinsley each received first-team nods, while their coach, Ken Bianchi, was awarded Coach of the Year in Class 5A.
Scranton Prep junior Leo O’Boyle made second-team in Class 4A.
Holy Cross senior Patrick Galvin was a second-team selection in Class 2A. The Crusaders’ Al Callejas was Class 2A Coach of the Year.
Across all six classifications, the panel of sports writers selected 35 first-teamers, as well as 38 second-teamers and 38 third-teamers.
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Nate Kreitzer

Nanticoke Area

The top playmaker in the WVC averaged 19.4 ppg, made 80 3s and shot 80.3 percent on free throws. Helped the Trojans run away with the title in Division 2, which was packed with talented guards.

Nanticoke Area Trojans lose to Bethlehem Catholic
At Liberty, Nate Kreitzer scored a game-high 20 points and accounted for two-thirds of Nanticoke Area’s scoring, but it wasn’t nearly enough in the Trojans’ season-ending loss, 71-30, to Bethlehem Catholic in the Class 4A boys playoffs.
Justin Paz led Becahi with 14 points. Deandre Gardner added 12 points and 6-foot-10 Northwestern recruit Ryan Young scored seven points.
Trahjan Krupinski added three points for Nanticoke Area, which trailed 33-6 at halftime.
The Trojans’ season comes to a close at 20-6.

Nanticoke Area rallies for win, PIAA berth
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Playoff basketball is unpredictable.
That’s rarely more evident than Tuesday night at Holy Redeemer, where underdog Wyoming Area raced to a 20-point lead it let slip away in a season-ending 52-48 loss against Nanticoke Area in the District 2 Class 4A third-place boys basketball game.
Nanticoke Area junior point guard Nate Kreitzer had another phenomenal performance, recording 25 points and three steals and advancing the Trojans into the PIAA playoffs after making the state’s Final Four a year ago.
“We got some turnovers, we made some shots, we got to the foul line,” said Nanticoke Area head coach John Beggs, whose team trailed 33-16 at halftime. “And then, law of averages evened out a little bit. They missed some shots that were good looks, we rebounded the ball assertively, and our fans got into it once we were able to get the lead. We just maintained it and hung on by a thread. Wyoming Area’s a great team. I feel bad for their seniors, but I’m very proud of our guys.”
Senior Dylan Melberger scored a season-high 15 points for Wyoming Area, which shot 6 for 11 behind the arc in the first half.
The Warriors’ first possession of the third quarter led to a 3 by senior Aaron Zezza, giving Wyoming Area its largest lead of 36-16.
But Zezza and center Sam Greenfield soon entered foul trouble, allowing Nanticoke Area to create turnovers and take advantage of Wyoming Area’s rough ballhandling.
“We lacked focus in the second half,” said Warriors head coach Pete Moses. “I thought the first half was one of the best halves of basketball we’ve played all year; first half against Prep was one of the best halves of basketball I saw us play all year, too. That 10-minute halftime came at the wrong time for us.”
The Trojans ended the third quarter on a 3 by freshman Luke Myers, whose shot made it 43-35 entering the fourth.
Nanticoke Area stayed hot into the fourth quarter, going on a 13-0 run and taking a 48-43 lead.
Kreitzer gave the Trojans the lead for good with 3:00 remaining, when he drove in the paint against three defenders but finished a layup to go ahead 44-43.
Sophomore forward Colby Butczynski scored the next basket, and said coach Beggs fired the team up with a halftime speech.
“We challenged our guys to be aggressive. We challenged them to fight with the Trojan pride that we’ve been having for years,” Beggs said. “Obviously, you saw the outcome.
“They rose to even a level that I couldn’t have imagined.”
Wyoming Area’s Daniel Wiedl brought the Warriors within two points, 50-48, after making a 3, but Butczynski sunk a pair of free throws to clinch the win.
In addition to Kreitzer’s 25 points and Butczynski’s 15, freshman guard Myers scored six points. Jake Krupinski added five points with eight rebounds. Dylan Szychowski made a free throw for one point.
Zezza finished with 11 points. He hauled in nine rebounds, while Greenfield had eight boards to go with eight points.
Kyre Zielinski added seven points and Matt Wright notched four points with seven rebounds for the Warriors, who were also hurt by missing on the front end of a few one-and-ones down the stretch.
Wyoming Area’s season wraps up at 15-10, while WVC Division 2 champion Nanticoke Area (20-5) opens the state tournament March 9.
“I hope we can have a run,” said Butczynski, who was a reserve on last year’s state semifinalist team. “I definitely want one. It’d be fun to have another run.”

Nanticoke Area falls to Valley View in 4A semifinals
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Nanticoke Area picked a bad time to go cold on offense.
The Trojans, though, can gain a bit of solace from Saturday afternoon’s 48-41 loss to Valley View in a District 2 Class 4A boys basketball semifinal game. They were in the same position last season and things worked out pretty well.
Of course, for top-seeded Nanticoke Area (19-5) to repeat last season’s postseason success, it will have to get past fourth-seeded Wyoming Area (15-9) in the D2-4A third-place game Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. The winner gets the final state berth. Wyoming Area lost 74-53 to top-seeded Scranton Prep in its semifinal.
Nanticoke Area won the third-place game last season and made it to the PIAA 4A state semifinals where it ran into Philadelphia city buzzsaw Imhotep Charter.
“We’re going to take a day off, regroup and wait for either Prep or Wyoming Area,” said Nanticoke Area coach John Beggs, whose game finished well before Prep and Wyoming Area tipped off. “Last year we made a lot of noise from the three seed. It’s not the idea thing. We wanted to get to the arena.”
Instead, third-seeded Valley View (16-8) will play Prep (19-5) for the D2-4A crown at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Mohegan Sun Arena. Those two teams locked up state spots with wins Saturday.
Nanticoke Area’s problems were twofold in the first half as the Cougars took a 27-16 lead into halftime.
First was the shooting. Valley View shot 46 percent in the first two quarters; the Trojans 29 percent. Guard Nate Kreitzer had 11 of Nanticoke Area’s 16 points and five of their six field goals.
Second was Valley View’s transition game led to some quick baskets. The Cougars took the lead for good, 10-8 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter, on a fast-break bucket by Dixon Black. They ended the half with two fastbreak layups for the first double-digit lead of the game.
“Their zone, I think in the first half we attacked it very well,” Valley View coach Mike Kurpis said. “We got the ball to the high post and that kind of opened up the defense. Second half, I think we got a little too complacent and didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had. And then the turnovers happened.”
Valley View managed just two points in the third quarter, but Nanticoke Area was able to shave only six points off the deficit as Colby Butczynski’s two 3-pointers were the only field goals.
The Cougars also survived nine turnovers in the fourth quarter as the Trojans created some havoc with their press. But after Nanticoke Area moved within 42-38 with barely a minute to play, but Valley View was able to hit four consecutive free throws.
Nanticoke Area was once again without Trahjan Krupinski, one of the top inside players in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Krupinski suffered a sprained ankle against Tunkhannock on Feb. 13. He was on crutches Wednesday and wearing a walking boot Saturday. But with only three days until the third-place game, his status remained murky.
No. 2 Nanticoke Area (19-5) — which made the state semifinals last season — will play No. 4 Wyoming Area on Tuesday for third-place at a time and place to be announced. The winner advances to the PIAA tournament.

District 2 Boys Basketball: Nanticoke Area wins back-and-forth contest vs. Meyers
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On paper, it was the No. 2 Nanticoke Area Trojans vs. No. 7 Meyers Mohawks.
“Definitely not a seventh-seed-caliber team,” Nanticoke Area head coach John Beggs said of his opponent.
Much like the seedings didn’t matter Wednesday night, neither did the “freshman” label slapped on Jake Krupinski.
In the 13th lead change of a wild, back-and-forth District 2 Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinal at Wyoming Area, Krupinski rattled in a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Trojans’ 50-48 win against Meyers.
“The guy has no fear, no nerves,” Beggs said of Krupinski, who scored 14 points and was one of three Trojans in double-figures scoring with Nate Kreitzer (21 points) and Colby Butczynski (10).
One year after making the state semifinals, Nanticoke Area (19-4) kept its season alive and will face No. 3 Valley View in Saturday’s district semifinals at a time and place to be determined.
Senior Jawane Buckner scored 18 points — including 12 in the fourth quarter — in the final game of his career for the Mohawks, whose season ends with an 11-12 record.
“I hate to see Jawane Buckner end his career this way,” said Meyers head coach Pat Toole. “He’s been one of the elite players in District 2, and he’ll go down as one of the all-time top Meyers basketball players.”
No lead was safe Wednesday night, including the one-point advantages — 10-9, 19-18, 31-30 — Meyers had at the end of the first three quarters.
Meyers stretched its lead to 39-34 with 5:06 to play, but Nanticoke Area countered with a 6-0 run to retake the lead.
Nanticoke Area’s rally started with an intentional foul that put Kreitzer at the line where he made a pair of free throws, followed by a Butczynski layup and two more Kreitzer free throws.
Toole chalked some of his team’s misfortunes up to mental mistakes, confusion and a lack of communication.
After trading leads a few more times, Meyers drew up a nice play that featured Cole Walker tossing an inbound pass to a wide-open Buckner, who cut to the hoop and made a layup for a 46-43 lead with 52 seconds left.
Meyers added another point to its lead, but Kreitzer went to the line and made three free throws to make it 48-47 with 28 seconds left.
Meyers missed some free throws down the stretch, which set up Krupinski’s game-winner that he made from the right wing with a hand in his face.
“I just let it rip like every other game, and it went in,” Krupinski said. “I had confidence. I had a lot of confidence in that shot.”
Fellow freshman Luke Myers scored five points for the Trojans.
Playing without injured big man Trahjan Krupinski, his brother, Jake Krupinski, Colby Butczynski and Dylan Szychowski each filled in nicely inside the post for Nanticoke Area.
But that was matched by Meyers’ Najese Hood, who had seven points and seven rebounds, as well as Kendall Brewster, who hauled in six rebounds to go with 15 points.
“It’s a shame anybody had to lose,” Beggs said, “but we’re glad to be marching on.”

Hazleton Area’s Josh Samec, Nanticoke Area’s Nate Kreitzer and Wyoming Seminary’s Dimitri Gnall were named divisional MVPs by the Wyoming Valley Conference Boys Basketball Coaches Association on Sunday.
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Divisional Coaches of The Year were Hazleton Area’s Mike Joseph in Division 1, Nanticoke Area’s John Beggs in Division 2 and Wyoming Seminary’s C.J. Kersey in Division 3.
Kreitzer, a junior guard, was considered one of the top ballhandlers in the entire WVC. He led Division 2 with 56 3-pointers and free-throw shooting by hitting 83.6 percent of his shots from the foul line. He averaged a team-best 19.3 points.

2nd Team
Division 2: Meyers junior Kendall Brewster; Nanticoke Area junior Trahjan Krupinski; Tunkhannock senior Sean Harder; Wyoming Area seniors Kyre Zielinski and Aaron Zezza.

Varsity Voice notebook: Maturity pays off for Nanticoke Area boys hoops
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

At this time last year, Nanticoke Area had an 11-3 overall record and 7-2 mark in league play.
Despite a massive roster turnover without last year’s senior class, the Trojans entered this weekend with the same exact record.
But don’t be so surprised.
“Everybody’s maturing a little faster than they would normally have to — because they have to get so many minutes,” said Trojans head coach John Beggs.
Big things were expected this year of guard Nate Kreitzer and forward Trahjan Krupinski, the only players who already had meaningful varsity experience under their belts.
Kreitzer’s been excellent, arguably the best point guard in the league. Krupinski has answered the call, as well, becoming a top post player.
But then, in addition, X-factors like freshman Jake Krupinski and sophomore Colby Butczynski are playing without any jitters typically associated with rookie seasons.
“It’s definitely been a great opportunity,” said Jake Krupinski, who scored a season-high 18 points Friday at Crestwood and added that next year will be even better.
So, will the remainder of the season mirror last year, when the Trojans made a magical run into the state semifinals?
That seems like a bit much for such a young team.
But, then again, the Trojans have proven many doubters wrong in the last two years.

2017-2018 Trojan basketball preview
"GNA Insider"
Eric Jeffries, Nate Kreitzer, and Allison Williams

Last winter, the Nanticoke boys basketball team shocked the Wyoming Valley Conference. After a devastating overtime loss to Scranton Prep in the district semifinals, the Trojans barely squeaked their way into the state playoffs.

Our boys then went on to make a run for the championship, fighting their way all the way into the final four, where they were the last public school standing in the tournament.

Last year’s team graduated multiple key players including Luke Butczynski, Cody Piestrak, and Justin Casey. To fill the void on the court left by these former Nanticoke basketball superstars, this year’s squad will need to rely heavily on young players.

Normally, a young team spells trouble for the upcoming season, but normal teams don’t have talented players like point guard Nate Kreitzer and center Trah Krupinski ready to take the reigns. This dynamic duo led their team to a 3-0 start and crushed every team they faced during that stretch by no less than twenty points.

Through these first three games, Kreitzer, who is the only returning starter from the previous season, averaged 23 points per game while Krupinski averaged 21.

If their trending dominance continues throughout the season, Nate and Trah have a good chance at leading the Trojans into a recreation of the previous season’s success.

Trojan Basketball Preview
Citizens Voice
Nanticoke Area

Coach: John Beggs

2016 results: 21-8, beat No. 2 Meyers for third-place in D2 Class 4A; lost to Imhotep Charter in PIAA semifinals.

Key players: Juniors — Nate Kreitzer; Trahjan Krupinski. Sophomores — Colby Butczynski; Andy Kozlofski. Freshman — Jake Krupinski.

Outlook: The Trojans had an unlikely and incredible 2016-17 season that ended one win short of the state championship game. If they go on a similar playoff run to cap this season, though, it would be even more unlikely and unbelievable. Any team with Kreitzer will have a shot at winning big games. He played lights-out at the end of last season and averaged 12.1 ppg overall. Trahjan Krupinski is another veteran player who’s averaging 18.8 ppg through five games. Krupinski and Kreitzer give Nanticoke Area a top-notch inside-out combination. But the Trojans did lose seven seniors and three transfers, forcing them to replace a ton of production.

Trojan Basketball Preview
Times Leader


Coach: John Beggs

2016-17 WVC record: 12-5 Div. 2, 3rd; 21-8 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Wyoming Area, W 60-36; Scranton Prep, L 72-66 2OT; Meyers, W 57-46. PIAA 4A Playoffs – Bethlehem Catholic, W 58-56; Conwell-Egan, W 62-54; West Philadelphia, W 78-62; Imhotep, L 60-23

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Luke Butczynski; Zack Cardone; Justin Casey; Cody Piestrak; Rich Wiaterowski; Matt Piontkowski (transferred to Holy Redeemer/declared ineligible)

Key players: Nate Kreitzer, Jr.; Trahjan Krupinski, Jr.; Dylan Szychowski, Jr.; Colby Butczynski, So.; Andy Kozlofski, So.; Jake Krupinski, Fr.

Outlook: The Trojans lost the bulk of their size, rebounding and scoring from a team which made it to the Class 4A state semifinals. They’ll lean heavily on two players, at least early on. Kreitzer (10.5 ppg) is a dynamic point guard who can drilled 3-pointers with ease. Trahjan Krupinski (5.3) really came on as a rebounder and inside defender last season. After those two, the questions are many.