ALLENTOWN — Ever since they can remember, the Nanticoke Trojans had a vision.
And by banding together, they came a little closer to turning a childhood fantasy into reality.
Luke Butczynski scored a team-high 18 points, Justin Casey and Trahjan Krupinski played big on the boards Friday and the Trojans used a strong second half to creep away from Conwell-Egan, 62-54, in a PIAA Class 4A boys basketball second-round game at Parkland High School.
“We grew up saying we’re going to win the state championship,” Butczynski said. “And I’m not saying that. But we’re going to try and keep it going.”
The Trojans entered the state tournament after winning the District 2 third-place game, captured their PIAA opener last weekend and now beat a quick and solid Conwell-Egan team in the second round — all as an underdog.
The run took Nanticoke on a trip into its storied past. The Trojans will face West Philadelphia, which beat GAR 74-60 Friday night, in a quarterfinal game Sunday. A Nanticoke boys basketball team hasn’t advanced this far since 1996.
“We weren’t even born, actually,” Butczynski said. “It’s an accomplishment.”
Nate Kreitzer got things started early for the Trojans, scoring 10 of his 17 points in the opening quarter to get Nanticoke out to a 14-10 lead.
Casey took over from there, owning the inside with six rebounds and seven of his 14 points in a second quarter as Nanticoke matched Conwell-Egan’s fast pace and smooth scoring almost to the end of the first half.
Then, Kreitzer hit a diving shot between two defenders at the second-quarter buzzer, sending the Trojans into halftime holding a 28-26 lead.
“That’s just a big-time play for a sophomore in this atmosphere,” said Nanticoke coach John Beggs, a 3-point marksman from the Trojans’ playoff teams of the late 1980s. “Guys were getting to the basket early. The effort’s been great all year. We’re just playing against teams that are extremely tough.”
The Trojans stood up to the task, though.
Butczynski hit five points in the second quarter, then really got going in the third.
He buried two 3-point goals to finish with three for the game, including a game changer with 2:49 remaining in the period to put Nanticoke up by eight. Butczynski was also key in breaking a trapping Conwell-Egan press, and converted seven foul shots — including five of six in the final quarter to help the Trojans put the game away.
“Actually, I’ve been in a slump,” Butczynski said. “At the shoot around (Friday), I worked on my shot. We knew this (Conwell-Egan) team was good. We knew what they had.
“They had a lot of talent. They’re just a very good team and very fast. We just had to stick together,” he said.
Krupinski kept sticking his 6-foot-4 frame in the middle, and it kept paying off for Nanticoke.
He pulled down three critical defensive rebounds to keep Conwell-Egan from tying the game, then hit a three-point play with 4:40 remaining to give the Trojans a five-point lead.
“Trah’s played great the last three or four games,” Beggs said. “He’s been really, really stepping up.”
Kreitzer stepped to the foul line to add five more foul shots in the final period, including two that gave the Trojans a nine-point lead and essentially iced the game with 43 seconds to go.
“To do this, it’s been a long time since Nanticoke’s been in this situation,” Beggs said.
“Big win for Nanticoke.”
PIAA Class 4A second round
Nanticoke Area 62, Conwell-Egan 54
NANTICOKE AREA (62) — Luke Butczynski 4 7-8 18, Justin Casey 5 4-10 14, Cody Piestrak 2 2-4 6, Rich Wiaterowski 0 0-0 0, Nate Kreitzer 4 7-8 17, Trahjan Krupinski 2 1-1 5, Matt Piontkowski 0 0-0 0, Patrick Caesar 0 0-0 0, Zack Cardone 1 0-0 2, Alec Divers 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 21-31 62.
CONWELL-EGAN (54) — Darien Simmons 5 3-3 13, Patrick Robinson 10 4-5 25, Sean Stokes 1 0-0 2, James Leible 2 1-2 5, Eric Esposito 2 0-2 6, Daniel Green 0 0-0 0, Devin Harris 1 0-0 3, Patrick Garwo 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 8-12 54.
Three-point goals — NAN 5 (Butczynski 3, Kreitzer 2); CE 4 (Esposito 2, Robinson, Harris).
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloskicomments powered by Disqus