State College’s Ryan McNulty may have been on the bench in the fourth quarter, but he still had plenty to celebrate — as he stood and clapped after teammate Ben Shaffer sank a late 3-pointer Friday night.
It marked Shaffer’s first points of the night and ensured all 12 Little Lions scored in their season-opening 78-36 win over the High School of Economics and Finance (N.Y.) in the Skip Coleman Memorial Tip-Off Tournament. About three minutes later, five State College players rose to their feet on the sideline after Shaffer nailed another shot from beyond the arc.
“For him being one of my best friends, I love to see that,” McNulty said. “It gave us a little bit of something to cheer about on the bench.”
McNulty scored a team-high 13 points to lead a balanced scoring effort for the Little Lions (1-0). Anthony Mobley added nine points for State College, while Drew Friberg, Keaton Ellis and Oliver Kile each had eight points. The Little Lions also finished with 12 3-pointers in the blowout victory to set up a championship game against St. James (Md.) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. St. James rolled to a 70-40 win over McKeesport in the tournament’s first game Friday night.
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The consolation game is set to start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We shot the lights out tonight,” State College coach Joe Walker said. “For a first night, that was pretty impressive the way we shot. In terms of getting the shots we wanted, I was happy — especially early on pushing, getting easy shots in transition.”
The Little Lions took control from the start with three easy transition buckets, including a dunk by McNulty to push his team ahead 6-0. State College led 23-10 by the end of the first quarter and started the second quarter with 3-pointers by Drew Friberg, Tommy Friberg and McNulty to blow the game open.
State College continued to connect from beyond the arc in its 12-point third quarter, with McNulty connecting on two 3-pointers to go with 3s by Drew Friberg and Brandon Clark.
Walker gave all 12 players plenty of minutes Friday night, getting his reserves into the game in the first quarter and continuing to substitute throughout the game. He wanted to see who worked well together and to give everyone an opportunity to get on the court in the season opener.
“You want to see who’s going to fill roles,” Walker said. “We have a starting lineup tonight that might change in the next couple days, couple weeks.”
Ellis came off the bench as he continues to recover from a broken thumb suffered during football season. The Little Lions point guard is also still working on his conditioning after sitting out for an extended period during the fall.
But he contributed eight points in the first half Friday night.
“My thumb isn’t as strong as I would like it be right now,” Ellis said. “I put tape on it, so that hinders me a little bit.”
Walker was most impressed by his team’s shooting performance, and he liked the patience his team showed against the Economics and Finance’s zone defense.
And the Little Lions showed strong chemistry after establishing new roles during the offseason.
“To see how far we’ve come as a team since the beginning of summer until now, it’s incredible,” McNulty said.