WILKES-BARRE – Nanticoke found itself in a 20-point hole with only 14 minutes to earn a return trip to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 4A boys basketball tournament.
The Trojans turned to Nate Kreitzer.
The junior guard hit three straight foul shots, after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, to begin a comeback in which he scored 16 of his game-high 25 points to rally Nanticoke past Wyoming Area, 52-48, for third place in District 2.
Kreitzer helped Nanticoke outscore Wyoming Area, 34-9, until the Warriors hit a 3-pointer for their first basket of the fourth quarter with 3.4 seconds left – too late to pull off their own comeback.
A JB Hoops player in the spring and summer, Kreitzer made seven straight foul shots in the comeback.
“Nate’s our leader many different ways,” Nanticoke coach John Beggs said. “We couldn’t have come back without his leadership, his toughness, his mental stability.
“When he started scoring a little bit, it opened everything up for other people to be aggressive.”
Nanticoke surged in front with the first 13 points of the fourth quarter, including five straight by Kreitzer for its first lead since 6-5.
Kreitzer’s steal and drive for a three-point play with 4:23 left cut the deficit 43-42. His driving scoop shot over a defender with 3:01 left gave Nanticoke a lead it never gave back.
The Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 Player of the Year, as voted on by WVC coaches, also had three steals.
Beggs turned to Kreitzer when he needed to get his team’s attention at halftime, when it had allowed the last 13 points of the second quarter to fall behind, 33-16.
“He’s the leader in the locker room when it comes to me getting on people,” Beggs said. “He takes the heat from me and passes it along to everyone else.
“He has a thick skin.”