Cole McCarthy (above) hit the game-winning 3-pointer as CR North beat Neshaminy on Tuesday. (Photo: Jared Leveson/CoBL)
With four seconds on the clock and down two, Council Rock North’s Jack Blum received the inbound pass and dashed up the floor.
Neshaminy’s Emeer Coombs and Guy Horton doubled Blum at half-court, denying the 6-foot-4 senior a lane to the hoop, but leaving Cole McCarthy open a foot behind the arc on the left-wing.
The 6-foot-6 senior received Blum’s pass, pulled up, and netted the three-ball at the buzzer.
McCarthy turned to his bench and flexed as his teammates and peers piled on top. One man tried to control the court-storming, but stopped after realizing his effort was futile.
“That was probably the craziest shot I ever hit,” McCarthy said after his game-winning trey. “I had a couple hard misses in the third and fourth quarter and I was like I need to bounce back.”
“I didnt let it get to me.”
The emotions poured out from everywhere and everyone. The win meant a lot, for reasons that extended well beyond the court.
Propelled by McCarthy’s heroics and team defense, Council Rock North’s dramatic 27-26 win on Tuesday night against SOL Patriot Division rival Neshaminy came during a difficult time for the program and the Council Rock North community.
“We were just trying to get Jack in an action going to the rim,” interim head coach Tyler Sessa-Reeves said about McCarthy’s game-winning shot. “We set a couple screens for him to catch and try to get his momentum going that way.
“They sent a double and Cole popped right where he was supposed to when the guy went to double. He flashed and he did a great job of knocking the shot down.”
“That might've been the best moment of my high school career,” Blum added. “The second it came off his hand I knew it was going in.”
Council Rock North’s (4-2, 3-1) gutsy win is a credit to Sessa-Reeves who has supported his players and head coach Jesse Krasna by taking over head coaching duties after Krasna’s wife, Jennifer, passed away earlier this month, just a few days after the birth of their son, Cade.
Sessa-Reeves has kept the team focused on the season and playing together in spite of all that’s happened.
“We’re doing good,” Sessa-Reeves said. “We’re here to support (Jesse) all the time. With the guys, they know that he needs time and that he needs to focus on his family.”
Sessa-Reeves, a 2017 Pennsbury grad, joined the coaching staff three years ago and Krasna entrusted him to run the team during his leave of absence. But the two have known each other since Krasna was a counselor at Pennsbury basketball camp and Reeves was one of his campers. The two stayed in touch after Krasna continued his playing career at Ursinus College and Sessa-Reeves was playing at Pennsbury.
“He texted me all the time and gave me some advice or just wished me good luck.” Sessa-Reeves said about his relationship with Krasna. “That’s awesome from someone who I looked up to for most of my life.”
Even though Krasna is not attending practices or games, Sessa-Reeves communicates with his friend almost everyday, whether it be lending an ear, discussing the team, or scouting opponents.
“I talk to him daily because I need his opinion because he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to basketball,” he said.
“He helps me prepare a ton. We collaborate on the scout and how we should guard things, how we should attack defensively. We text pretty much all day on game days to talk about adjustments.”
“I tell him everyday, as much as you want to be involved, you are more than welcome to, but there is no pressure.”
The players understand and support their coach's decision to step away as the whole program has galvanized around Krasna and are playing with him in mind during every game and practice.
“We've used it as motivation,” McCarthy said. (We) just keep pushing hard, staying focused, and working hard.”
Sessa-Reeves and Krasna’s scout paid off for Council Rock North as they shut-down a talented and experienced Neshaminy squad that was undefeated in league play before McCarthy’s dagger three. North’s win tied Neshaminy (5-2, 3-1) for second place in the Patriot Division. Both programs are now a half game back of first place Bensalem (5-0, 3-0).
North opened the game in a 1-3-1 zone, utilizing their length to slow down Neshaminy’s potent offense that features multiple players who can score at all three levels like Coombs, Sean Curley and Nate Townsend.
The zone shut down Curley and Townsend in the second half, both failing to register a point. Coombs found success in the third, hitting a three and turning a steal into a fastbreak layup, but the junior guard only scored via the charity stripe in the fourth.
Neshaminy also committed nine turnovers because of North’s ability to disrupt passing lanes and poke balls loose with their length. Seven of North’s players are listed as 6-foot-2 or taller.
“We knew we had to slow the game down,” Sessa-Reeves said about North’s game-plan. “If we got into a track meet we knew it probably wasn't gonna workout best for us. That’s why we tried to go to a 1-3-1 and try to slow the game down.”
“I think our length just doesnt let the ball get around too easily,” McCarthy added.
“We take a lot of pride and work behind the scenes,” Sessa-Reeves said about the scout. “We do a lot of homework.”
“If the team we’re playing struggles against pressure we’re going to pressure and if they struggle against the zone we’re gonna play zone. We kinda take it match-up by match-up. Our length gives guys some trouble. I think they are comfortable in it (the zone) and we were pretty successful in it.”
Length plus zone equals wins for Council Rock North who have won two straight since implementing the 1-3-1. Before Neshaminy, North bested crosstown rival Council Rock South (1-5, 0-4) 48-36 last Friday.
Their win on Tuesday; however, did not come easily. North struggled offensively as much as Neshaminy did and failed to register a player in double figures.
“They were just getting into us,” Sessa-Reeves said about Neshaminy’s defense. “We were struggling to get into some of our sets. Some shots that usually fall didn't fall, and some layups that usually go in didn't go in.
“But we did a great job of grinding out the win.”
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter until North’s Oliver Schaefer buried a three to shrink Neshaminy’s lead to 23-22 with 1:12 remaining.
With 28.7 seconds left, still down one, McCarthy kicked the ball out to Blum on the wing who slashed his way through the lane and around two Neshaminy defenders, kissing a right-handed scoop shot off the glass.
North’s lead was short lived as Coombs buried two free throws, pushing Neshaminy’s lead back to 25-24. Shortly after, Coombs returned to the line and missed his second of two free throws, which kept Neshaminy’s lead at 26-24, setting up McCarthy’s game-winner.
“We preach moving off,” Sessa-Reeves said. “You can't change the last possession, you can only change the one you currently have.”
“We moved on and luckily we were able to execute. Jack had that one finish at the rim and we executed perfectly for that last play. We got the shot and it was able to fall.”
CR North: 6 | 9 | 4 | 8 || 27
Neshaminy: 8 | 8 | 7 | 3 || 26
CR North: Jack Blum 9, Cole McCarthy 7, Oliver Schaefer 5, Adam Mahtat 4, Micah Oxley 2
Neshaminy: Emeer Coombs 11, Sean Curley 8, Joey Zack 2, Ashton Lovelace 2, Guy Horton 2, Nate Townsend 1