Dec 03, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Sure, the calendar had just turned to December, but it wasn’t too early for the “Wildcat Nation” to celebrate.
West Genesee’s boys basketball team had just gone into Christian Brothers Academy’s gymnasium last Friday night and won, 66-59, the second consecutive year that the Wildcats had knocked off the Brothers.
When the clock hit zero, the Wildcats’ players were mobbed by the students (in their trademark gold T-shirts) at mid-court, a championship-like celebration long before any hardware will be handed out.
More importantly, WG had reminded all in attendance that it ought to be considered as a Class AA championship contender, even if key players like Shane Williams departed from last year’s 13-9 squad that lost to Henninger in the Section III Class AA quarterfinals.
For this winter, head coach Steve Dunham has an enviable combination of talent and experience. Four of his starters — Casey Reale, Brian O’Leary, Kevin Wadach and Chris Cruz — are seniors, proven players with plenty of big-game experience.
And the new starter isn’t bad, either. To succeed Williams, the Wildcats have tapped 6-5 sophomore Jack Conboy, who has enough offensive skills to hold up against the long list of top paint players in the AA ranks.
Conboy had an immediate chance to prove his worth when he lined up against highly-touted CBA sophomore Mike Goodman. He held up well, getting 14 points, not far from Goodman’s total of 18 points.
Despite this, the Brothers, led by Marcus Sales, built a 38-31 lead early in the third quarter, appearing to have too much size and strength for WG to handle.
But just when CBA looked to be taking over, Cruz put the Wildcats on his back, earning half of the points as WG went on a 14-4 run to reclaim the lead.
What helped even more was when Sales hung on to the rim too long on a dunk late in the period, leading to a technical foul, his fourth.
Sales would have just two of his 21 points the rest of the way — and with him neutralized, WG could be more aggressive.
From a 53-53 tie, over the game’s final 4:07, the Wildcats outscored the Brothers 13-6 down the stretch, and Cruz continued to be the spark. Of Cruz’s team-high 21 points, 17 came after halftime.
Aside from Cruz and Conboy, Wadach was the main threat, earning 12 points, while O’Leary got all eight of his points from the free-throw line.
This big win gave the Wildcats plenty of confidence going into Tuesday night’s home opener against Central Square. On Saturday, WG meets Class A powerhouse Jamesville-DeWitt in the Brooklyn Pickle Shoot-Out at Henninger High School, starting at 2 p.m.