Bittersweet end to McNeal's career at Episcopal Academy

Posted: February 16, 2014

IMAGINE YOU SPENT nearly your entire academic life at one school and then suddenly with the harsh hum of the final buzzer - it's over.

Yesterday didn't quite have the finality of graduation for Episcopal Academy senior Chris McNeal, but after the Churchmen bowed to Perkiomen School, 45-44, his high school basketball career was no longer.

"It went by real fast," said McNeal, who started at the school in kindergarten. "The games just go by so fast and you want to play your best in each one. I'm gonna miss it here."

The 6-1 guard didn't go quietly. He scored a team-high 12 points in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament. McNeal also added a game-high four blocked shots for No. 8 Episcopal.

However, Perkiomen was paced by junior forward Paulius Zalys, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for the ninth-seeded Panthers (16-4).

"Close game," McNeal said. "We didn't play our best, but we played pretty well. Overall, I'm happy with how the season went."

The senior captain leaves the Churchmen (16-8, 6-4 Inter-Ac) in capable hands. Junior point guard Mike Jolaoso added 10 points and four assists and was a pace-setter during league play. Freshman forward Nick Alikakos had 11 points, to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks.

The Panthers just proved too much on the interior. Despite adhesive-like defense by junior forward Kyleel Cosby (two blocks), Zalys and senior forward Justas Valciukas (nine points, eight boards, four assists) were too much.

Basketball will continue for McNeal next season at Dickinson College, where he hopes to study the sciences.

Voted first-team All-Inter-Ac by league coaches last season, McNeal finished with second-team honors this season and was named team captain with fellow senior Connor Martin (six points).

"I'm definitely an outside shooter," he said, "I used to not be able to shoot threes, now it's pretty much the main part of my game."

He credited some tinkering with his form and plenty of practice with the transformation into a valuable outside threat. He hit two of seven from trey yesterday.

With graduation in the offing, McNeal said he will miss more than just basketball at Episcopal. After all, it's the only school he's known. He was active in the student-run athletic association and diversity club, and he also played violin in the school's orchestra.

"[I'll] just miss the community in general," he said. "I have so many friends here and teachers, so I'll just miss everyone. I know so many people, because I've been going here basically my whole life."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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