Neshannock has way with Bristol

YOUNGSTOWN – Bombard the boards and run the court – the Neshannock boys basketball team found two ways to beat Bristol on Sunday night.

The Lancers outrebounded the Panthers 41-19 and received 31 points from shooting guard Ernie Burkes in their 76-54 win over the Panthers.

“That’s the best team we’ve played so far and probably will play on our schedule,” Bristol coach Craig Giesy said.

Burkes, a four-year starter who surpassed the 1,000-point mark early in his junior year, added four assists and three steals. Most of his points, and Matt McKinney’s 13, came off fast-break opportunities.

“Our goal is to play very much up-tempo,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “When we’re clicking we can get out in transition pretty well.

“I’ll never admit to us being well-disciplined. We can always be better, but we did handle ourselves well.”

The Lancers (15-4) grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and converted each second chance. Ethan Moose grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds with Jimmy Medure bringing down eight.

“They don’t have that 6-foot-6 guy, but they have 6-1 to 6-4 guys across the board,” Giesy said. “They’re very physical and were throwing us around a little bit.”

Burkes barely stands at 5-foot-6, but Corey calls him “the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached.”

“I’ve always been blessed with great quickness and speed,” Burkes said. “I’ve tried to use that as much to my advantage as possible. I came into this game and did what I’m used to and got my scoring up.”

Neshannock led 15-6 after the first quarter as the Panthers (10-5) committed five quick fouls. The lead expanded to 23-6 within the first minute of the second quarter. Bristol’s only field goals in the second were 3-pointers – one by Johnny Simcox at the 5:10 mark, Aaron Wiebe at the 2:52 mark and Brandon Lee with 31 seconds remaining.

“That’s when we’re actually at our best,” Burkes said. “When we get up early on a team with a couple of quick points and get out ahead. It’s hard to come back when you’re down by at least 10 early.”

The Panthers are currently on a four-game losing streak, which included previous losses to Maplewood, Windham and Lordstown – all on the road. They’ve been outscored 268-224 since dropping 97 on Ledgemont in a Jan. 10 victory.

“This is the first game that we’ve shot well in the losing streak,” Giesy said. “Some guys are starting to get comfortable.”

Bristol’s biggest problem has been finding a scoring complement for Lee. He led with 19 points on Sunday, but Tomasiak, the second leading scorer, had 11. Simcox finished with eight points.

The Panthers entered the season without last year’s leading scorer, Chad Oliver, and key contributor, Zak Dibell, because of graduation.

“Now, we have a team filled with very good role players,” Giesy said. ” We only graduated two guys, but everybody left had to move two spots up and we’re still getting used to those new spots.

“I saw some guys shooting the ball more and getting confident on the offensive end. When that comes for us, we’ll start winning some games.”

Bristol outscored Neshannock 19-18 in the fourth quarter as Lee scored eight of his points before Giesy’s wholesale substitution with just over a minute remaining.