Bella Napoli captures VFCC men's basketball title

Photo by Barry Taglieber Bella Napoli's Cornell Merricks, right, dribbles while being defended by Phoenixville Federal's Doug Berzins.
Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville Federal's Paul Mills, right, drives to the basket while being guarded by Bella Napoli's Matt Kurtz.

CHARLESTOWN - Bella Napoli outscored Phoenixville Federal Bank & Trust, 55-38, in the second half to post a 97-84 victory to capture the 2014 Valley Forge Christian College Menís Summer Basketball League championship July 29 at The Pit gymnasium.

Bella Napoli trailed at halftime, 46-42, but turned up the intensity during the second half to take the victory and the playoff title. Bella Napoli entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed while Phoenixville Federal was No. 2.

Regular season winner Sherwin-Williams was upended during the playoffs.

Jon Hogga fired home 25 points, including five treys, and Cornell Merricks drained 21 with two first-half triples and seven free throws to head up the Bella Napoli scoring. Jon Crabtree (17 points), Matt Kurtz (15) and Chris Talley (12) also finished with double figures for Bella Napoli. Mike Gary and Gary Lynch rounded out the scoring for the winners.

Talley, the head boys basketball coach at Spring-Ford High School with Kurtz as his assistant, served as the team captain. Other players on the Bella Napoli roster were Neil Haberstadt, Jake Talley, Ryan Kraft, Tyler Setzler and Ryan Repko.

Hogga talked about his teamís playoff surge. Some players throughout the league are forced to miss contests due to work and family obligations

ďEverybody has children and some guys have work,Ē said Hogga. ďWe didnít play well (during regular season). We just wanted to make the playoffs and come around. We pick up the intensity for the playoffs. We play really well together.Ē

Hogga said the ballclubís veterans, who have a lot of experience playing in pressure situations, help lead the charge during the playoffs.

ďWe have a lot of older guys who know how to play when it comes down to crunch time,Ē said Hogga.

He thought Bella Napoli came out of the gate a little slowly, but finished with a strong rush.

ďA lot of these guys are coaches, and that makes it easier to play well together,Ē said Hogga.

Matt King was high man for Phoenixville Federal with 25 points to match Hogga for game honors. King drilled a pair of treys and sank all seven of his foul shots. Doug Berzins followed up with 16 markers, including three treys. Nick Quigley popped in four treys to also close out the game with 16 points. Brett Ames deposited 10 with two treys.

Corey Gordon had six with two treys and team captain Ross Reber had five with one trey. Andrew Meszaros and Paul Mills rounded out the scoring for the Bankers.

The rest of the Bankersí team roster included Eddie McKeon, Bobby Edmonds, Randy Reber and Greg Cagle.

Bella Napoli jumped out to a 26-15 lead at the outset when Hogga nailed a trey from the top of the key. Phoenixville Federal rebounded with a six-point run to keep it tight. The game was then tied at 32, 35 and 37 before Ames dropped home a trey from the right wing with five minutes left in the first half to make it 40-37 in favor of the Bankers.

King made both ends of a one-and-one foul situation. Berzins hit a 3-point field goal from the right baseline with 1:38 showing, and then he buried the first of three foul tries in the last second to enable the Bankers to take their four-point lead into intermission.

In the second half, the game was knotted at 53 and then at 55 on two Kurtz free throws at 13:15. Hoggaís trey from the left wing with 12:39 on the clock put his team ahead to stay as Bella Napoli went on a 13-0 spree in a 4:19 span.

Merricks, who scored 15 of his points in the second half, turned a drive into a three-point play as part of the flurry.

Follow Barry Sankey on Twitter @BarryBSankey1.