Fred Mulbah (above) speaks to reporters after scoring 27 points to lead Northeastern into the YAIAA championship. (Photo: Michael Bullock/CoBL)
Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
RED LION — When Fred Mulbah canned his first shot Tuesday night — a 3-ball from just outside the top edge of the circle — the Northeastern senior already was thinking he might be in for a good night.
Well, Mulbah’s night wasn’t just good.
Splendid works, but so do a few other adjectives.
Actually, Mulbah’s all-around performance was just what the Bobcats needed to turn back a deep-shooting Kennard-Dale squad 58-44 in Game 2 of the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association semifinal-round twinbill at Red Lion High School’s Fitzkee Athletic Center.
Mulbah poured in 27 points, grabbed five rebounds and even dropped a handful of dimes as Jon Eyster’s bunch (22-2) — the 10th-ranked club in City of Basketball Love’s Class 5A state rankings — advanced to their second consecutive York-Adams championship game.
“When I took my first shot and made it, I kind of knew it was going to be a good night,” Mulbah said of his trey in the opening seconds. “I just tried to be aggressive and I started to take over the game.”
“Freddie was huge,” Eyster said.
Mulbah & Co. will find a familiar adversary awaiting them when the pull into York College’s Charles Wolf Gymnasium Thursday night, as YAIAA Division I rival Central York used a 56-42 victory over New Oxford in Game 1 to earn a spot in its fifth consecutive YAIAA final.
Northeastern collared a 62-51 victory in last year’s final.
“They’re going to be ready for us,” said Mulbah, who helped the Bobcats turn back Central twice during the regular season (59-42 at home and 67-64 on the road). “We’’re going to be ready.
“It’s going to be a good game, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Stonehill recruit Adam Freese netted 15 points and 5-5 freshman dynamo Carter Day chimed in with 12 for Kennard-Dale (18-6), which will continue its season in the District 3 Class 4A playoffs.
Yet the night belonged to the 5-9 Mulbah, a combustible physical package capable of playing the game at a rapid pace — as well as at or above the rim. What got him started, however, was a 3-ball from the top of the key that splashed some 15 seconds into the game after he reeled in a D.J. Hamilton dish.
Out quickly — Northeastern actually bolted to a 12-0 lead — the Bobcats never trailed.
While Mulbah tacked on a finish at the rim during the Bobcats’ game-opening outburst, he later added a swipe from behind that led to a two-handed flush that had Northeastern up 20-10 with 2:13 left.
Mulbah added another seven points in the second quarter — he finished the half with 14 — as Northeastern was able to fend off the stubborn Rams. KD squeezed within one (29-28) on one of Freese’s five treys, but a 5-0 salvo capped by Mulbah’s finish at the rim made it 34-28 at half.
“It seemed like every time we were getting ready to expand [the lead], they buried a rainbow 3,” said Eyster, referring to Kennard-Dale’s seven first-half treys. The Rams finished 10-for-32 from beyond the arc. “Or they got an offensive rebound.
“But you survive and advance.”
So when the Bobcats returned for the start of the second half, Eyster had Mulbah checking the 6-5 Freese, one of his AAU teammates with the York Ballers. Freese was not as efficient after the break, bagging just 2 of his 10 shots — both from a step or two beyond the arc.
“I just tried to force him to his weak hand and try not to let him cross over to his left,” Mulbah admitted. “He got to his left sometimes, but I just tried to do my best. I’m also strong enough to body him up.”
“Freddie can keep him from getting the ball,” Eyster said. “He did a good job keeping him from getting the ball.”
Although Mulbah was 11-for-16 from the floor and 3-for-7 from deep, there was one aspect of the game that disappointed him. Seems he was just 2-for-8 at the foul line.
So, as Eyster’s Bobcats put together their blueprint for Thursday’s championship game, Mulbah expects to spend all sorts of practice time working on free-throw shooting. Especially since Central York, based on Tuesday night’s struggles, might tag the amiable senior more than once.
“I’ll be shooting a lot of free throws tomorrow, definitely,” Mulbah said with a grin — and then some laughter. “I’ll be the last one out of practice tomorrow.”
Hamilton and Albany-bound Antonio Rizzuto backed Mulbah with nine points apiece — Hamilton returned to Northeastern after spending his sophomore and junior years at York Country Day — while Nate Wilson tacked on eight points. The other Bobcats were a combined 14-for-27 from the field.
On this night, however, Mulbah’s eruption was more than enough to propel the Bobcats forward. Especially since Eyster talked just before preseason practice began about how his club was going to need more points from its lead guard.
“I always try to have a good floor game, even if I can’t score the ball,” Mulbah said. “Just try to do everything I can to impact the game and I think I do a pretty good job of that without scoring the ball every night. I can still get assists, rebounds and play defense.”
“He had a great game defensively, too,” Eyster said.
Central York headed back to YAIAA championship game … yet again
Able to keep a leash on New Oxford’s capable stable of perimeter shooters for the third time this season — and the second time in a week — Kevin Schieler’s Central York Panthers find themselves headed to the York-Adams title game for the fifth consecutive year.
A 56-42 victory over their Division I playmates locked up the invite.
Cade Pribula netted 16 points, while Landyn Ray chipped in 13 and Saa’hir Cornelius added 10 as Schieler’s Panthers (16-7) collared their sixth straight victory.
“That’s what I like about these guys,” Schieler said. “It’s a different turn every night offensively for these guys — and they don’t care. Last time we played these guys, it was Saa’hir.
“Landyn hits that 3-ball from the corner to start the fourth and Saa’hir was jumping off the bench and screaming about it. … You never know. That’s what makes these guys real unique.”
Pribula also grabbed seven rebounds and pocketed at least six steals before the 32-minute exercise came to a close. Cornelius also was busy, dishing out five assists.
Abdul Janneh was the lone player to reach double digits for New Oxford (17-7) — Sean Bair’s Colonials lost 59-52 and 49-44 to Central during the regular season — as the 6-2 sophomore finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. New Oxford will be part of the District 3 Class 5A field.
Never in arrears even once, Central continued to add length to an advantage that stood at 14-8 after one quarter, 28-18 at the halftime break and 44-27 after three quarters. While Pribula netted 10 first-half points, Ray banked eight second-half points as the Panthers pulled away.
Effective defensively as well, Schieler’s club limited New Oxford to just under 36 percent shooting from the floor (16-for-45) and just over 30 percent (8-for-26) from the arc. And that was more than enough to propel the Panthers, who won the YAIAA’s postseason crown in 2014 yet have lost the last three finals, back into another final.
“I was really happy with our defensive performance,” Schieler said. “A little more than 10 points a quarter and holding them under 10 the first three quarters.
“I was really happy with the whole team defensively tonight."