Dec 29, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As it accepted the first-place trophy and medals Thursday night at the Chittenango Christmas Tournament, the Cazenovia boys basketball team could have smiled reflecting on the perfect 10 — as in a 10-0 record — that it has built in the first half of the 2006-07 season.
Indeed, the Lakers were happy — but also a bit relieved.
In the two nights of the tournament, Cazenovia twice stared at defeat — and twice beat it back, using a combination of extreme poise and extremely potent defense to remain unbeaten.
The excitement began in Wednesday night’s opening round, when the Lakers met the hosts from Chittenango and pulled off a remarkable escape job.
Sporting a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, and an eight-point lead with two minutes left, the Bears squandered both advantages, watching the Lakers rally and steal a 51-48 victory.
Bringing along its usual brand of tight defense, Cazenovia soon found that its offense, so effective in the huge Dec. 22 win over Westhill, was not firing at the same level.
This was especially true in the third quarter, when the Lakers’ modest 22-21 lead vanished as it was held to five points.
Chittenango maintained that stiff resistance well into the fourth quarter, building a double-digit advantage and appearing poised to halt Cazenovia’s eight-game win streak.
Then the Bears’ nightmare began. Two starters, Nick Bloom and Chris Frascatore, fouled out, while another (Heath Stone) was hobbled. Chittenango missed easy chances near the basket.
Most of all, the Lakers’ attack woke up. Cody Ash poured in 10 of his 13 points in that final frame to key the comeback, and Aaron Burbidge’s clutch 3-pointer (one of four in the homestretch) put the Lakers ahead for good.
Chris Nourse matched Ash with a 13-point output, while Trent Widrick gained 12 points (all from four successful 3-pointers) and Burbidge added eight points.
In defeat, the Bears had the game’s top two scorers, as Stone put up 17 points and Frascatore added 14 points.
Following all this, the sky-high Lakers had to avoid a letdown in Thursday’s final against Waterloo (Section V), who beat Oneida 73-68 in the other opening-round contest.
This turned out to be a thriller, too, and once again, defense provided the key to the Lakers’ late rally and a 59-54 victory to make it 10 in a row.
After leading by as much as 11 in the second quarter, Cazenovia watched Waterloo surge in front at many different stages of the second half.
Down 51-48 with less than three minutes left, the Lakers turned up full-court pressure, forced a series of turnovers, and got seven unanswered points (from Tom Eschen and Nourse) to pull ahead for good.
A.J. Trahms’ 3-pointer with less than a minute left cut the Lakers’ lead to 55-54, but Burbidge, Widrick and Eschen all hit free throws to ice it.
Burbidge was named tournament MVP, for good reason. Many of his 20 points came at key spots when Cazenovia needed them, and he added three rebounds and three assists.
Nourse, working the baseline well, added 19 points, while Eschen continued to be a force in every phase of the game with seven points, 11 rebounds, four assists and six steals.
Meanwhile, in the consolation game between Chittenango and Oneida, the Bears, miffed at the way it fell apart against Cazenovia a night earlier, responded with a dominant performance as it beat the Indians 71-52.
Vinnie Commisso was the driving force all night, leading Chittenango with 20 points. Stone, still hobbling, added 17 points.
Back in the opening round, Oneida had seen a late rally against Waterloo fall just short as Ryan Kramer had 29 points. Joe McCormick (11 points) and Ryan Clark (10 points) offered some help.
For Waterloo, Chris Agan helped to ruin the Indians’ night as he poured in 32 points. Waterloo led 42-30 at halftime before Oneida made its comeback attempt.
Cazenovia was the second consecutive state-ranked foe the Bears had faced. In its Dec. 22 game against Jamesville-DeWitt, it lost a 72-41 decision to the Red Rams.
Over the course of the first three periods, J-D built a 67-31 lead as junior Mickey Davis poured in 26 points and sophomore superstar Brandon Triche added 15 points.
No Chittenango player reached double figures. Jeff Richardson and Vincent Commisso each had nine points, while Heath Stone had eight points.