With its two juniors, Justice Shoats and Christian Fermin, leading the way, the NEPA Elite Coyle 17U boys team is picking up momentum.
Shoats was selected Most Valuable Player and Fermin was named to the all-tournament team for the 17U Gold Division Sunday after NEPA Elite won the title of The Origin, a two-day Marquee Sports event.
NEPA Elite won its last three games, following an opening loss, in the tournament at the United Sports Complex in Downingtown. The team has won six of its last seven games.
Shoats drove down the left side for a three-point play with 33 seconds left in overtime, completing the scoring and lifting NEPA Elite to a 54-51 championship game win over Team Final Red.
“He played really well,” coach Brian Coyle said of Shoats, who was the 2019-20 Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 Player of the Year as a sophomore at Holy Redeemer. “I think the best part about Justice was he had an impact on both ends of the floor – defensively and offensively.”
Fermin, a 6-foot-8 forward from Pocono Mountain West who has already begun receiving National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I scholarship offers, had a double-double in the victory that avenged the only loss the team has suffered in the past three weeks.
“He played the whole game,” Coyle said. “ … The blocks that are most noticeable are the ones he pins on the board or punches out of bounds. But he deters a lot of shots, too, and that just leads to missed shots and us getting rebounds.
“His impact defensively is at an all-time high level.”
While Shoats is driving the offense, particularly in transition, and Fermin is a stopper in the half-court defense, there are other reasons for the team’s recent run of success.
“On the offensive end, our ball movement has been very good,” Coyle said. “I think we’re manipulating the defense very well. We’re having a better understanding of our plays. With the ball movement, we’re hitting guys in the right spots.”
That leads to more scoring options.
“Ethan Meuser was stepping up,” Coyle said. “We’re a really well-balanced team. We don’t have to rely so much on Justice and Christian to play well.
“Each guy is starting to step up and I think they’re just becoming more comfortable with the system.”
A recap of the weekend games:
Team Final Red 56, NEPA Elite 48
NEPA Elite led 31-30 at halftime, but Team Final Red moved in front from the start of the second half.
Fermin led NEPA Elite with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Meuser, a 6-7 senior forward from Wyoming Seminary, added nine points in the loss.
Fermin and Ryan Harder, a 6-4 senior forward from Tunkhannock, each made two 3-pointers.
NEPA Elite 78, YSU Elite 53
Shoats scored 23 points and his 9-for-15 shooting led the way as the team hit 50.9 percent while winning its second Saturday game.
NEPA Elite was 29-for-57 from the floor and 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Meuser added 11 points, 3 blocked shots and team-highs of 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Cole Walker scored 10 points.
The strong shooting game included Gavin Bednarz going 3-for-4 while scoring nine points, Michael Skoff going 3-for-5 while scoring eight and Justin Smith going 2-for-3. Bednarz and Skoff are senior guards from Scranton Prep. Smith is a senior point guard from Pocono Mountain West.
Jagger Dressler grabbed seven rebounds while Skoff and Fermin had six each.
Fermin blocked six shots.
Meuser broke the last tie with a 3-pointer for a 13-10 lead.
That started a streak of seven points in which Walker scored next. Walker, a 6-4 senior guard/forward from Wilkes-Barre Area, also scored the first five points before Dressler hit a 3-pointer in an 8-2 run to a 25-16 lead.
YSU Elite was back within five points until Bednarz scored on a drive and Harder hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 37-27 halftime lead.
After YSU Elite scored the first five points of the second half to again close within five, NEPA Elite ran off the next eight points and the margin was never less than nine again. Shoats had five points in the streak.
The lead went as high as 70-42 on a 19-0 run in which Skoff hit two 3-pointers.
“Skoff was making shots and he was all over defensively,” Coyle said. “His energy was great.”
NEPA Elite 52, Athletes Plus 45
Shoats scored 21 points, including the game’s final 8, to lead the Sunday victory that NEPA Elite needed to reach the division championship game.
Skoff hit both ends of a one-and-one with 1:45 left to start a stretch in which NEPA Elite scored the game’s last 10 points to come from behind.
Timely steals were a big part of the victory. Harder, Walker, Skoff and Shoats all had steals during the closing streak.
Athletes Plus led by seven before NEPA Elite put together a 14-0 run midway through the first half in which steals by Walker and Fermin led to breakaways by Shoats.
Danville’s Dressler and Riverside’s Rickert hit 3-pointers in the streak, which also featured Walker driving for one basket and grabbing an offensive rebound to set up Bednarz for another.
NEPA Elite remained in front until the final six minutes when Athletes Plus scored nine straight for a 42-38 lead.
Harder, Shoats, Skoff, Dressler and Rickert all finished with two steals. Dressler also had a team-high six rebounds while Skoff led with three assists.
Meuser scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds.
NEPA Elite 54, Team Final Red 51
Timely scoring by Shoats, a double-double from Fermin and 3-point shooting by Rickert got NEPA Elite through the overtime battle in the championship game.
Shoats scored 19 points, including the winning three-point play.
Fermin finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
Rickert went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc while scoring 11 points.
Shoats had seven points during a 17-5 run over the final five minutes of the first half. His 3-pointer from the top of the key with one second left created the game’s biggest lead, 29-20, at halftime.
Team Final Red scored 12 of the first 13 points of the second half to move in front and start a stretch in which the teams traded the lead over the final 9:14 of regulation and overtime without either leading by more than three.
Rickert twice hit go-ahead 3-pointers during that stretch.
Dressler made the front end of a one-and-one for a 49-47 lead, but Team Final Red tied the game with two free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
Fermin’s 32-footer at the buzzer went off the back of the rim.
Dressler’s putback opened overtime scoring.
Team Final Red’s only basket of the period tied the game before the winning drive by Shoats.
Shoats also had five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots in the championship game.
Bednarz, who had five points, three assists and two steals, and Dressler joined Shoats in providing five rebounds.