The Ellwood City Lincoln High boys basketball team faced off against Section rival Neshannock on Friday.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2021 WPIAL Class 3A semifinals. Friday’s outcome had a familiar look.

The visiting Wolverines cruised to a 56-34 Section 1-3A verdict over the host Lancers on Friday night. Last year, Ellwood City upset host Neshannock in the semifinals, 60-51. The Lancers had won the previous two tilts in the regular season.

“They lost some guys, we lost some guys, it’s a new year,” Ellwood City coach Steve Antuono said. “I try to tell our guys the championship’s not won tonight and it’s not lost tonight. They know that. I felt we kept our composure, we practiced the game plan and the kids executed the game plan beautifully.

“I couldn’t be prouder or happier for my team and Ellwood City.”

Ellwood City’s Alexander Roth recorded a team-high 23 points and his brother Joseph Roth chipped in 20.

“We played our game that we needed to play, we kept our composure and we kept our mouths shut,” Alexander Roth said. “We played our game to a T...we won a WPIAL last year but we don’t care, we’re here and we know what we can do.

“Winning here is a great feeling but we’re not finished.”

After a physical back-and-forth battle in the first, the Wolverines held a narrow 11-7 lead after the first eight minutes. The Wolverines pushed the margin to 25-15 after the first quarter.

“It was just tremendous to have our gymnasium overflowing with people again. It was a hell of an environment,” Neshannock coach John Corey said. “This game wasn’t won or lost on January seventh. Our big issue with this group is that this was a lot of offseason woes that caught up to us in this game.

“We’ve prided ourselves on having really good offseasons where we get better and multiple guys get skilled. This wasn’t one of those years...this game was lost back in May, June and July. Basketball season comes and it starts asking what you did in the summer and this was one of our worst summers in fifteen years.”

Ellwood City put pressure on Neshannock’s offense in the third quarter, only allowing them to put up four points.

“We wanted to make (Mike) Sopko work for everything he got,” Antuono said. “I assigned a totally new kid to varsity, Anthony Spadafore. To me, he did a phenomenal job. I have no idea what Sopko had tonight but he had to work for everything.

“If you have Anthony Spadafore chasing you for four quarters it’s tiring. I see it everyday at practice...I couldn’t be happier for Anthony.”

Sebastian Coiro drained nine points for the Lancers and Kurt Sommerfeld chipped in eight.

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