'Toppers nip Dawgs

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POTTSVILLE - As he has often during his Nativity basketball career, Jeff Yordy was a great part of the story during the Jan. 10 Schuylkill League Division II-III crossover game against Tri-Valley atop Lawton's Hill.

However, after Yordy scored 16 of his game-high 30 points during the second period of Nativity's 63-49 victory, basketball became secondary to the welfare of one of his teammates.

Wearing a neck brace and placed on a backboard, Cullen Hoppel was taken from the Nativity gymnasium by ambulance personnel after he struck his head on the court during a scramble for a loose ball in the third period.

Suffering convulsions almost immediately, Hoppel was treated on the court for 20 minutes before his trip to Lehigh Valley Medical Center in Allentown.

When Hoppel raised an arm as he was taken out of the gymnasium, the entire crowd erupted with a standing ovation.

"He doesn't remember anything about what happened," Nativity head coach Kevin Kennedy said, "and he was out cold for 25 to 30 seconds."

It took some time after Hoppel's injury for the Hilltoppers (6-3, 4-1 D-III) to regain their footing.

Tri-Valley (4-7, 2-3 D-II) scored 13 of the third period's final 17 points, including a pair of 3-pointers by Cale Bruso, to cut what was a 14-point Nativity lead at the time of Hoppel's injury to 47-42.

Bruso led Tri-Valley with 22 points while Jaden Buchanan added 10.

"Our kids definitely came out flat," Kennedy said, noting the end of the period saved his Hilltoppers.

"We had to settle the team down, and then the trainer came over and said he (Hoppel) was going to be OK."

Nativity responded with a 16-7 edge in the fourth period to end a two-game skid that featured losses to Pottsville and Mahanoy Area.

Yordy, who had a rim-rattling dunk, and Kyle Kaledas combined for nine points in a 12-2 Nativity run that gave the Hilltoppers a 59-44 lead with 3:04 left. Kaledas finished with 13 points.

"Kyle had some amazing assists to get the ball in Jeff's hands," Kennedy said.

Early on, the game was all Tri-Valley. The Dawgs opened the game with a 13-4 spurt and led 17-10 after eight minutes.

"We scored 10 points and we gave up 17," Kennedy said about the first-quarter score. "I was livid."

Yordy scored the opening bucket of the second period, and the game changed. Combining a strong defensive effort with Yordy's offensive explosion, Nativity went on a 25-4 run to take a 35-21 halftime lead.

"We wanted to hold Yordy to 20 points. We didn't do that," Tri-Valley head coach Mike Masser said.

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