Visconti scales 2,000-point plateau and powers Johson by Delaware Valley
2/13/2018 4:56 PM

Despite a widespread reputation for intelligent, team-oriented play, George Visconti definitely did not launch Monday's quest for 2,000 points within the context of the A.L. Johnson offense.

That's because he did it within the context of its defense.

Visconti eased into what would become a very big day for him by, first, making his opponent uncomfortable and then, second, reassuring his teammates that his objective was about winning over wowing.

The 6-3 senior guard scored his first two buckets of the night directly off his own steals and hit two free throws early in the second quarter after drawing a flagrant foul off another steal and breakaway. He finished with 26 points to surpass the two-century mark and lead the Crusaders to a 61-50 victory over Delaware Valley in a non-conference battle in Frenchtown.

Visconti is believed to be the fourth player in Union County to reach this milestone, joining Pete Kessel of the Jewish Educational Center, Isaiah Biscoe of Roselle Catholic/St. Benedict's and Shaheen Holloway of St. Patrick.

"I knew coming in based on numbers and averages that I probably would get it today, but I still didn't want to force anything," Visconti said after posing for approximately one photo for every 10 career points with family and friends after the game. He was gracious, though probably more uncomfortable than Delaware Valley had made him when it switched up from man to zone in the second half.

"I just wanted to stay within myself and let the offense kind of come to me," he said. "I was able to get some easy buckets off steals, and I was able to shoot a lot of free throws (11 of 13), partly because they were trying to be physical. But that usually works to my advantage."

If Visconti strikes you as a deep-thinking baller, you should know just how deep that goes. He's No. 1 in his senior class with a 4.8 cumulative average. When he's not dribbling a ball, he's tackling AP science courses.

"It's a little difficult to juggle sometimes. It can be a challenge," said Visconti, who plans to pursue engineering at whichever school he decides upon. "I always try to time-manage, and for the most part I think I handle it all well."

Visconti entered the game needing 17 to reach 2,000 and closed out the first half with 16 to help Johnson (14-6) build a 33-23 lead. through that entire half, he never once appeared to be pressing. In fact, he almost looked in halfcourt sets like he had no particular interest in scoring at all unless point guard Brenden Kelly led him directly to the basket.

Visconti shot a neat 4 of 6 from the floor and 7 of 9 from the line while also recording his four steals, three of his six rebounds and two of his three assists. In the second half, he would add two blocks to his impressive stat line.

All of that was crucial, too, because Johnson played without starter Joe DiProfioand sixth man Ross Wildes, who were home fighting the flu. The Crusaders' six-man rotation included freshman Tino Puentes, who scored a basket and logged some useful minutes to help Visconti chase history and their team aim for a win.

"He's playing both ends and he's making his teammates better," Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said of Visconti. "He's racking up assists and when we need rebounds he gets rebounds. He does the things we need him to do to win a ballgame."

That has always been Visconti's priority, and the team results bear that out. Johnson was 22-5 last year and reached the Central Jersey, Group 2 final.

Team concept or not, a moment like this calls for a little mental snapshot and maybe an imaginary backslap for realizing the fruits for the million or so jump shots hoisted in the off-season.

The moment came when Visconti controlled a deflected pass to the baseline, spin-dribbled away from the wing defender in Del Val's zone and cut toward the foul line. He dribbled into the paint, pulled up and swished a 12-footer that gave him 2,001 points and the Crusaders a 38-28 lead with 5:02 left in the third quarter. There was a brief stoppage of play to honor the achievement.

"It felt great. There was, of course, satisfaction; it's a pretty tremendous personal accomplishment," Visconti said. "But as a competitor, once you get that you're like, 'Alright, now, I want to go out and win a ball game.

"As soon as I got it I was overjoyed about the accomplishment. A split second later I was worried about getting the win."

Because Delaware Valley (11-10) obviously had no interest in entertaining a scoring milestone and a loss under its roof on the same evening. Just 1:03 after Visconti had opened a 10-point lead, Matt DiGuardia and Joe Cansfield both cruised to the basket off consecutive turnovers to bring the Terriers to within 38-37.

"Of course, I score 2,000 and it's the worst thing I could have done for my team," Visconti said. "We had to fight back, dig deep. Eric Bretz did a great job stepping in as a starter for Joe DiProfio, and Tino Puentes gave us quality minutes."

Brandon Hund played a big role for Johnson with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Kelly chipped in with 14 points, three assists and three steals. Delaware Valley got 18 points from Cansfield and 11 points and eight rebounds from Brandon Bernhardt.

"We were a little off-rhythm missing a couple guys, but we had the next guy step up and help us win," Kennedy said. "We have a bunch of guys who can make plays. It's so had to teach guys to play without the basketball, but we have three guys who make plays with the ball as well as make their teammates better."

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