HS BASKETBALL: Fast start carries balanced Abington Heights past Prep

Jan. 28—SCRANTON — On an emotional Coaches vs. Cancer night, Robby Lucas and his Abington Heights teammates turned in an inspired performance.

Lucas, a sophomore center whose father Tom died in 2020 after a battle with cancer, scored 16 points, had six rebounds, two assists and two steals as the top-ranked Comets defeated No. 7 Scranton Prep, 65-48, on Friday night at the Xavier Center.

Abington Heights improved to 16-1 overall and 8-0 in Division I. Four players scored in double figures, including Ryan Nealon with a game-high 19, and Mason Fedor and Will Marion with 13 each.

"I think we all stayed positive and knew coming in that this was a big game," Lucas said. "We all kind of stepped up and played our roles and came away with an important win, especially being on the road."

Abington Heights came out firing on all cylinders, but was especially intense on defense.

The Comets forced five turnovers, controlled the glass with 10 rebounds, and raced to a 20-8 lead that put them in the driver's seat. Nealon started a 12-2 run in the final 3:31 of the quarter. The surge included a 3-pointer from Marion, a pair of free throws from Patrick Walsh, and five points from Lucas.

"It is important to come out fast, and that's exactly what we did," Lucas said.

In the first, Nealon and Lucas each had two steals, while Walsh added another.

"Our approach is that it is OK to have nerves before the game, but once the ball is tipped, we have to come out and crank it up and start playing," Nealon said. "We were able to get some steals and easy layups in transition to start the game."

In addition to not taking care of the ball, Scranton Prep (10-7, 4-4) made just 4 of 12 shots and had just four rebounds.

"We shot ourselves in the foot early," Scranton Prep coach Andrew Kettel said. "We had too many live ball turnovers. I think they had 13 points in transition in that first quarter. We didn't have too many shot attempts because of our turnovers. When we didn't turn the ball over in the second quarter, I think we won the quarter. That is the difference in the game.

"We dug ourselves too deep a hole. They are a good basketball team. We kept fighting, but that first quarter really hurt us."

With a double-digit lead, Abington Heights maintained its poise as the Cavaliers tried to make runs at it in the second quarter. Fedor scored six of his 13 points in the quarter. Nealon added five.

"It is not always about scoring," said Fedor, who had two blocked shots and collected 12 rebounds, helping the Comets hold a 34-18 advantage on the glass. "Our guards handle the ball, and I was just down low doing my job controlling the boards."

Scranton Prep did not have a turnover in the second quarter, and the offense started to show signs of life. Daniel Santaniello scored seven of his 11 points, Brycen Martin had four of his team-high 12, and the Cavaliers trailed, 31-20, at the break.

Abington Heights, however, charged back up in the third as Fedor knocked down a pair of 15-foot jumpers, Marion scored four points and Lucas had two in a 10-4 start to establish a 41-24 lead with 4:07 left in the quarter.

"You can't just guard one of us," Fedor said. "My friends always tease me that a 15-footer is my sweet spot, and I finally made a couple from there."

After Scraton Prep's Ambrose Rossi scored on an offensive rebound, Marion had a steal and fast-break layup, Lucas added an offensive rebound and the lead swelled to 45-26 at 2:42 of the third.

In the fourth, Martin and Santaniello each hit 3-pointers as part of a 10-4 start for Scranton Prep to close within 51-41. But Lucas converted a three-point play, and Fedor added an offensive rebound that ignited a 11-2 response by the Comets. Nealon scored four and had a steal and an assist to Lucas as the lead increased to 62-43 with 3 minutes to play.

"We know they just had a big comeback win over Wallenpaupack," Nealon said, referring to Scranton Prep's comeback from a 17-point deficit Tuesday. "Against a team like theirs, you have to keep them from scoring. We were able to play decent defense and not turn the ball over."

Abington Heights 65, Scranton Prep 48

Abington Heights (16-1, 8-0) — R. Nealon 6 6-7 19, R. Lucas 7 2-3 16, M. Fedor 5 3-5 13, W. Marion 5 2-2 13, P. Walsh 0 2-3 2, J. Petriello 1 0-0 2, Z. Brister 0 0-0 0, R. Cutrufello 0 0-0 0, L. Anderson 0 0-0 0, E. Curtin 0 0-0 0, J. Shaffer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 15-20 65.

Scranton Prep (10-7, 4-4) — B. Martin 5 0-0 12, D. Santaniello 3 4-4 11, C. Scanlan 3 0-1 7, K. Pritchyk 3 0-0 6, K. Casey 2 0-2 4, A. Rossi 2 0-0 4, R. Valvano 1 0-0 3, J. Pettinato 0 1-2 1, B. Rothwell 0 0-0 0, J. Odom 0 0-0 0, A. Lafferty 0 0-0 0, J. Maloney 0 0-0 0, K. Skutack 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 5-9 48.

Abington Heights 20 11 16 18 — 65

Scranton Prep 8 12 11 17 — 48

3-point goals: W. Marion (AH), R. Nealon (AH), B. Martin (SP) 2, D. Santaniello (SP), C. Scanlan (SP), R. Valvano (SP). JV: Scranton Prep, 36-28.

Contact the writer: jbfawcett@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter