Feb 25, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A long time — 41 years, to be exact — has passed since the Cazenovia boys basketball team claimed a Section III championship.
And despite a school record for victories in 2006-07 and an OHSL Liberty division title, the Lakers were denied that crown again.
Holland Patent played the role of spoiler last Saturday night at Manley Field House, the Golden Knights using its size and timely 3-point shooting to beat Cazenovia 57-46 in the sectional Class B-1 semifinals.
At the start of the post-season, HP did not seem too imposing with its 11-9 record and no. 6 seed in the B-1 bracket. But most of those defeats had come against Class A opponents like New Hartford, V-V-S and Utica-Notre Dame in the tough Tri-Valley League.
Toughened by those games, the Golden Knights went north on Feb. 17 and dismissed Frontier League champion South Jefferson 67-54 in the quarterfinals.
Now, the Lakers got its shot at HP. They traded the lead in the first quarter, but the Golden Knights snatched it for good on Dave Golembiowski’s 3-pointer near the end of the period.
So began a frustrating pattern. Cazenovia would hang close all night, only to see HP put in a shot at just the moment it was needed to keep the Lakers from catching up.
The Lakers were within three when the Knights hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer. Just the same, the margin was five when, at the end of the third quarter, Golembiowski returned to sink another trey to make it 38-30.
As this was going on, Cazenovia made just two of 17 from outside the arc, and just 32.4 percent of its shots overall. And even though the Lakers trimmed a 12-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter, HP rode solid free-throw shooting (14 for 18, all in the second half) to a B-1 finals appearance against Marcellus.
Chris Nourse stood out, leading both sides with 22 points. Cody Ash, with 10 points, was the only other Laker in double figures as Trent Widrick added eight points.
HP’s defense did an effective job on seniors Peter Lokai, Aaron Burbidge and Tom Eschen, holding them to a combined six points. Lokai still led the Lakers with 10 rebounds.
For the victorious Golden Knights, Jared Keyte led the way, with 18 points, as Golembiowski added 15 points. Mike Ellis (11 points) and Don Whitaker (10 points) also reached double figures.
Cazenovia got to the semifinals by fighting through a tough and trying B-1 quarterfinal against no. 7 seed Bishop Grimes last Tuesday night, prevailing 65-55 over the Cobras.
Completing a perfect 11-0 run in the cozy confines of Buckley Gym, the Lakers made its pivotal run in the third quarter, breaking open a tight affair by holding Grimes to just eight points in that frame.
Grimes tried to subdue the Lakers with all kinds of physical play, leading to some technical fouls. And once again, Cazenovia came through at the foul line, making 25 free throws to the Cobras’ eight, many of them down the stretch.
Burbidge, close to automatic in these circumstances, had 12 of his 21 points come from free throws in his last home game. Nourse had 20 points, eight of them from foul shots, while Eschen and Lokai each had nine points and offered their usual strong presence on the boards. Widrick added six points.
Defensively, the Lakers did a nice collective job on forward Frank Majka, holding him to eight points. In fact, Eric Ball, who had 23 points, was the lone Grimes player to score in double figures.
That would prove to be the last Laker win of a historic campaign where the accolades, honors and cheers produced by head coach Todd Widrick and his players far outweighed the fact that the season ended short of a sectional title.
Now, to repeat that magic in 2007-08, the Lakers must somehow find a way to replace three cornerstone players of that success in Burbidge, Eschen and Lokai. At least the presence of Nourse, Ash, Trent Widrick, Bryan Wight and Ben Dewan as seniors will make that transition easier.