After lighting up Bristol for 31 points Sunday night at the Covelli Centre, Neshannock senior guard Ernie Burkes admitted he didn’t feel like he had completely gotten his shot back after a long football season kept him out of the gym.
The Panthers would disagree.
Burkes scored 21 in the first half as the Racers lived up to their nickname blowing out Bristol 76-54 to hand the Panthers their fourth consecutive loss of the season.
“I knew I could do this so coming out and doing it doesn’t really surprise me,” Burkes said. “I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I don’t really surprise myself anymore.”
He didn’t surprise Bristol either. It just didn’t have an answer for the track meet style of play the Racers like to implement throughout the game.
“Our goal is to play very up-tempo and when we’re clicking we can get out in transition and play pretty well,” said Neshannock coach John Corey. “We knew they were going to trap us. Bristol plays really hard and likes to fly all over the place to try and cause some chaos, but we were prepared for that.”
Because of the Racers’ start, Bristol never really had a chance to get into its game plan. Burkes pushed the ball after every basket leading to numerous easy transition points.
“That’s the best team we’ve played so far and probably will play on our schedule,” Bristol coach Craig Giesy said. “Great shooters, very physical, good team, and we knew that coming in.”
Sophomore Ethan Moose perhaps provided the toughest mismatch for Giesy and the Panthers. He’s listed at guard but pulled down 12 rebounds to go along with his 11 points.
He also got stuffed by the rim on a transition dunk attempt late in the game that gave his teammates a good laugh on the bench.
Brandon Lee made four 3-pointers and finished the game with 19 points for the Panthers, which played evenly with the Racers in the second half.
“We’ve had a tough stretch against good teams,” Giesy said. “The thing is we’re getting better even though the results aren’t showing. I’m proud of these guys though.”
As for Burkes and how far he can take Neshannock this season, who knows?
“Athletically speaking, he’s the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached,” Corey said. “He’s a four-year starter for us, scored 1,000 points way back in his junior year, and he’s just a heck of a player.
“You hate to say that you rely on one player, but if he’s clicking like he was tonight it makes everyone else’s jobs a lot easier.”