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By Lance Larcom
Northern Tier West Sports Report
MANSFIELD — North Penn-Liberty gave St. John Neumann Regional Academy everything they had Thursday night, leading the heavily-favored Knights by as many as six points throughout the first half and into the third quarter, but an aggressive press leading to a 41-21, second-half SJN run would doom the Mounties as they fell 64-50 in the District IV Class A title game.

The Knights had no choice but to institute their three-quarter-court press early, as North Penn-Liberty started the game out by being able to set up in their offense and junior point guard Derek Litzelman having his way against SJN’s highly-touted defenders.

Litzelman scored six of NPL’s first eight points as the Mounties jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. The big guard twice breezed past Neumann’s D1-recruit Davion Hill for layups to start the game, then found Noah Shedden inside for a bucket and, after a Hill putback got SJN on the board over three minutes into the game, hit a jumper to conclude the run. 

Litzelman finished with 21 points to lead the Mounties, including a three near the end of the first that gave him nine in the quarter and NPL took a 15-11 lead into the second.

After another Hill follow to start the second quarter cut the Mountie lead to two, Hunter Thompson hit a jumper and Litzelman connected on a pair of free throws to again give NPL what would equal their biggest lead of the game at 19-13.

SJN then turned on the defensive pressure, coming up with three layups off of steals in the next 1:30 to draw even at 19-all.

Devin Bradley scored off a Thompson miss, followed by a SJN score before Kyle Davis hit a late three to again break the tie. Neumann would score at the buzzer, leaving NPL’s lead at one going into the locker rooms, 24-23.

Coming out of the break, the Knights again allowed NPL to set up their half-court offense, resulting in a quick Litzelman three and a Bradley drive that again gave the Mounties a six-point lead. 

Back in their press, SJN would outscore NPL 17-8 over the rest of the quarter, and saw the Knights take their first lead of the game at 33-32 during a 9-0 run that took only a minute and a half off the game clock.

A Thompson jumper and three Shedden free throws helped limit the damage and the Mounties entered the final quarter down three, 40-37, but an 8-0 Knight run to start the fourth left NPL down 11. 

Despite eight Thompson points and five from Litzelman in the fourth, the Mounties would be forced to foul, and although SJN would connect on just 9-of-22 from the line in the quarter, including 1-of-5 by D1 recruit Hill, it would be enough, as the Knights produced a 24-point quarter to provide the final.

Thompson joined Litzelman in double figures with 14 points, while Bradley had seven, Shedden had five and Davis added three.

Hill scored 30 to lead SJN.

With their 2nd-place finish, the Mounties earn a berth in the state tournament. Their first-round game will be on Tuesday, at a yet-to-be-determined time and place.

PHOTOS: Lance Larcom

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