Boys basketball: Nitro wins showdown over rival St. Albans
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After Nitro staked itself to a five-point halftime lead over host St. Albans by committing just two turnovers in the first two quarters Tuesday night, Wildcats point guard Angelo Sirianni chucked a pass into the bleachers on his team's first possession of the third quarter.
Sirianni spent the rest of the night successfully atoning for the rare miscue.
He scored 28 second-half points, surpassed the 1,000-point milestone for his career, outdueled friend and training partner Nathan McNeil in one of the best one-on-one showdowns in recent memory and ultimately led the Wildcats to a 66-62 win at Tex Williams Gymnasium in St. Albans.
"If it was fun to watch, it was even more fun to be a part of," said Sirianni, who finished with 39 points to McNeil's career-high 29 and added four rebounds, two steals and an assist to his stat line.
"We've been going at it in training, and we just applied that to our game. That's the most fun I've had all year. It's fun battling against somebody like that."
Down 26-21 at halftime, the Red Dragons made a concerted effort to take advantage of Nitro's thin roster by pounding the ball inside more to freshman center Thad Moss and junior forward Tanner Aliff while also relying on McNeil's ability to slice into a defense while getting to the rim.
It worked in the short run, as the Red Dragons (5-7) trailed 34-30 when Nitro (8-7) drew its seventh team foul of the half with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
St. Albans Coach Marshall Kiser credited a combination of Sirianni's hustle and his own team's lack of intensity for derailing the scheme.
"A couple times there when we went on that little run they got the ball in and he just ripped it right up the middle of the floor and right by our guys," Kiser said. "We played some triangle-and-two, and we played some chase and we played some man and tried to mix it up, but to his credit he hit some unbelievable shots."
Nitro led by seven entering the fourth and extended its lead to 50-39 when Sirianni hit his second 3-pointer - and third field goal in less than a minute - with 6:37 left. It was then when McNeil emerged, making the home stretch of the game a thrill ride.
The senior guard hit a 3 to cut Nitro's lead to 52-41, and he and Sirianni accounted for 29 of the game's final 34 points. However, the Dragons could get no closer than 62-57 before McNeil drew his fifth foul, with 26.6 seconds left.
"That was a heck of an effort by Nathan McNeil. Take your hat off to him. He hit tough shot after tough shot after tough shot," Nitro Coach Bryan Faber said. "It wasn't this mano y mano duel that we were just letting happen. He hit tough shot after tough shot, and Angelo was just being Angelo for us."
McNeil said his performance was actually a last-ditch effort to salvage a game that was getting away from his team.
"Coming in at halftime I knew I wasn't playing well enough to get a victory, so I decided to turn it on as best I could," McNeil said. "Unfortunately so did Angelo, so we went at it. It was a fun game. I wish we came out with a 'W' but I think it'll really help this team moving forward."
The showcase of long-range shooters - both Sirianni and McNeil made 50 percent of their 3-point attempts and shot better than 50 percent overall - overshadowed another contest of the area's brightest young talent. Nitro freshman guard Trevon Taylor had 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals while Moss finished with 14 points and five boards.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.