Brian Coyle likes what he has been seeing from his team lately.
The NEPA Elite Coyle 17U boys team won its group for the second straight event and improved to 9-2 since dropping four straight games in its second event of the season.
The latest success came Saturday and Sunday in the Hoop Groups Fall Jam Fest at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim Township.
NEPA Elite went 3-1, winning all three of its games to claim the Open Division Pool D title before losing a championship game between pool winners. That performance comes on the heels of going 3-1 to win the 17U Gold Division at The Origin two weeks earlier.
“Overall, I just feel like I did two weekends ago, that we’re really competing at a high level,” Coyle said. “We’re engaged in every possession. We’re fighting. We’re battling.
“We’re playing a lot of teams that we probably shouldn’t be beating, but I just feel that we’re winning because of how hard we’re playing, but also the consistency with which we’re playing, the way we’re executing.”
That has been the case on both ends of the floor.
“It’s not only on the offensive end,” Coyle said, “but I was more impressed with us on the defensive end.
“I saw a lot of rotations that, in the past, we weren’t getting, but now we are and it’s affecting the outcome of the shots or the possessions.”
The team’s winning streak reached six games before a 67-64 in the playoff game with a team from the Boo Williams Summer League in Hampton, Va.
NEPA Elite (12-7 overall) is getting plenty of experience in close games, going 4-3 in single-possession games – those decided by three points or less.
Down three in the final 30 seconds, NEPA Elite made a series of clutch plays to pull out a win over PK Flash in a meeting of Hoop Group Showcase League teams.
Ethan Meuser, a 6-foot-8 senior forward from Wyoming Seminary, led the team in scoring, starting out the weekend with a double-double and averaging 12 points for the event. He went 3-for-5 on 3-pointers in the final game.
“He was very consistent all weekend,” Coyle said. “He’s getting very comfortable with his role playing out on the perimeter. Over the last eight games, he’s shooting over 40 percent on 3s.
“He’s doing a great job both inside and outside.”
Justice Shoats, a junior guard from Holy Redeemer, also averaged in double figures in points.
A recap of the weekend games:
NEPA Elite 59, Crown Basketball 52
Meuser had a double-double for NEPA Elite, which started and finished strong in Saturday’s opener of the two-day event.
After scoring the game’s first 11 points, NEPA Elite found itself in a 37-28 hole.
Meuser, who also grabbed 11 rebounds, then scored 10 of his 17 points in the final 10 minutes to join Gavin Bednarz in leading the comeback.
Bednarz scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 7:20.
The senior guard from Scranton Prep had the basket that erased the last Crown Basketball lead, then Meuser hit the free throws that put NEPA Elite ahead to stay.
Michael Skoff, another Scranton Prep senior, made all four of his shots, including a 3-pointer, while supplying nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Danville’s Jagger Dressler grabbed seven defensive rebounds and had three assists. Christian Fermin blocked three shots.
NEPA Elite 58, PK Flash Elite 57
Cole Walker stole the ball under the basket and quickly turned the play into the game-winning layup with 10 seconds left in Saturday’s second game.
Caleb Vigil joined Walker in a trap that produced the decisive turnover.
Shoats, who led the way with 19 points and 3 assists, also had a steal in the final 30 seconds and contested the game’s final shot, causing it to fall short.
The rally from 3 down in the final 30 seconds came after PK Flash had made its own comeback from 23 points behind in the second half.
Fermin blocked five shots in the first half to join forces with Shoats in building the big lead. The 6-8 junior forward from Pocono Mountain West also had 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals for the game.
Meuser added 10 points. Bednarz had five assists.
NEPA Elite led 29-11 with 2:18 left in the half and 38-15 with 13:02 left in the game.
PK Flash scored 15 straight points at one stage and outscored NEPA Elite, 34-10, for a span of 9:14 to take the lead.
NEPA Elite 56, Hockessin Warriors 32
Shoats scored 13 points and Fermin added 11 in the Sunday win that allowed NEPA Elite to finish 3-0 and as champion of Pool D.
NEPA Elite scored the last seven points of the first half and the first three of the second half to break away to a 32-15 lead.
Meuser and Walker added six points while Vigil had five.
BWSL-Meech 67, NEPA Elite 64
In the playoff game between pool winners, NEPA Elite rallied from 15 points behind in the second half to get as close as 2 points before falling short.
Meuser finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a blocked shot.
Bednarz added 12 points and Walker, a senior from Wilkes-Barre Area, had 10.
Tunkhannock’s Ryan Harder hit 3-pointers on his only two shot attempts of the game and chipped in with six points and five defensive rebounds.
BWSL never trailed, but the game was close for most of the first 20 minutes.
After BWSL took a 21-12 lead, Harder’s 3-pointer started a streak of seven straight NEPA Elite points and the margin remained between one and five points for the last six minutes of the first half and the first 2:26 of the second half.
BWSL hit four 3-pointers in three minutes to begin opening its lead and used 12 straight points to make it 52-37.
Meuser scored half the points in a 14-2 run to get within 56-53.
Fermin converted his own rebound to make it 59-57 with two minutes left, but BWSL scored on four of its final five possessions to hang on.
Vigil, a Lakeland senior, had two acrobatic baskets at key times. His tip-in at the first-half buzzer cut the BWSL lead to 32-29. He also had a tough finish in transition off a Meuser steal when the rally from the 15 down was just beginning to build momentum.