Kwiat contributing to Neshannock's success

Neshannock's Russell Kwiat dribbles into the lane during a home game against Farrell.

Lawrence County boasts one undefeated basketball team among the boys and girls ranks.

And Russell Kwiat helped make sure last week it was Neshannock High.

Kwiat scored 33 total points in two Lancers wins last week, including a key 3-pointer in overtime of a 59-50 WPIAL Section 1-3A home win over Ellwood City Lincoln.

For his efforts, Kwiat was named the Lawrence County Athlete of the Week, as voted on by the New Castle News sports staff.

Russell is a son of Bob and Marti Kwiat.

Russell Kwiat, a 6-foot-3 senior point guard, has helped coach John Corey’s team pick up the scoring slack of late. Spencer Perry, who was averaging 14 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.

“Once we lost Spencer, we had to come together and figure out what is our next step,” Corey said. “When I talked to our guys, I really approached Russell and Mike Sopko, and Johnpaul Mozzocio; those three can all score and rebound. I just really addressed the fact it’s not one person.

“It’s not like one person will have to make up the difference. Collectively, I don’t need anyone to average 14 more points. Russell has taken that message and taken that message to heart. He has taken ownership with where we are at.”

Where Neshannock is at is atop the WPIAL Section 1-3A standings, two games clear of the competition.

Kwiat had a chance to end the game against Ellwood City in regulation. But he missed a layup at the buzzer and the teams headed to overtime. The Lancers led 50-48 with two minutes to go when Kwiat buried a 3-pointer for a 53-48 advantage. Ballgame. Neshannock pulled away to remain undefeated and Kwiat finished with 16 points in the win.

“Russell came back in overtime and played very well,” Corey said. “He’s a basketball junkie. It wasn’t always like this early on.

“He’s been a constant for us the last four years. With the peaks and valleys our team has been through, Russell has been a part of some really good teams and he has gotten better. He knows it’s about the next play. Not everything will go right, the ball won’t always bounce your way. That’s the way Russell plays, it’s his demeanor on the court.”

Kwiat followed up that performance by adding 17 points in a 75-31 victory over Riverside.

Russell’s dad Bob played for Neshannock and was a member of the school’s 1987 WPIAL championship team. The Lancers won the Class 1A championship that season, 81-80 over Monessen, in three overtimes. Bob Kwiat finished his high school career with 1,142 career, tying for 54th place on the county’s all-time scoring list with Sam Gealy, also of Neshannock.

Bob Kwiat scored a game-high 31 points in that championship win.

Russell Kwiat is averaging 13 points a game (143 total points), 3.9 assists a game and a 3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio prior to Tuesday’s matchup against Laurel. He also has knocked down 19 3-pointers.

“He’s long, all of 6-3,” Corey said. “His strength has increased over the years and he can finish around the rim.

“Offensively, the way he sees the floor, the way he’s able to see the open guy, attack the rim and make the pull-up jumper, it makes him a complete player.”

Corey said Russell Kwiat wants to play basketball at the collegiate level.

“Wherever he goes, they will have a very good basketball player, but a better young man,” Corey said. “He’s a quiet kid. A kid you can trust to do the right things. He’s going to make a college coach and a college program very proud.” 

rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

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Sports Editor

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is the sports editor at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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