Feb 27, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A long, long time has passed since the Marcellus boys basketball team last played for a Section III championship — 45 years, to be exact.
Way back in 1962, the era of short shorts, crew cuts and Chuck Taylor sneakers, the Mustangs met Ilion for the sectional title — and lost, 64-62.
Two generations later, Marcellus has finally reached a title game again, as it meets Holland Patent Friday night at 6:30 at Manley Field House with the sectional B-1 crown on the line.
“The kids understand what this means to the community,” said head coach Jim Marsh. “The thing we have to do is not get caught up in the hype and just play our game.”
If nothing else, the Mustangs got there in spectacular style.
Playing at Manley in last Saturday’s B-1 semifinal, the Mustangs ignored no. 1 seed Sherburne-Earlville’s 21-0 record and took the Marauders apart in the second half, pulling away to a 72-34 victory.
S-E had a perfect record, but it had mostly been built against Class C and D opponents, while the Mustangs had dealt with a much tougher schedule. By game’s end, that difference would show.
Only once did Marcellus trail in this game, when it was 5-4 early in the first quarter. And even that lasted less than 20 seconds, for once Kevin Merriman hit a runner to put his team up 6-5, it would not get caught again.
Finding his deft shooting touch again, John Kermes had 12 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, helping the Mustangs lead by as much as 10 before going to the break holding a 26-19 lead.
Late in the third period, Marcellus still had a modest 36-28 edge. But after a Wes Hoy free throw, Jeff Watson came off the bench and hit three consecutive baskets, breaking the game open.
Over the last 10-plus minutes, the Mustangs outscored the Marauders 36-6, blending in blinding defensive pressure with crisp passing that led to a long string of easy baskets. It helped that S-E’s best player, forward Wilson Rose, fouled out after putting up 14 points.
Aside from Kermes, Merriman was the top producer, with 12 points, while Hoy and Watson got 10 points apiece. Marsh also gave high praise to Dave Canfield, Alex Skvarch and Kyle Blackmer for working hard inside to get Rose into foul trouble.
It was, in every regard, a magical week. Before S-E, Marcellus put an end to Westhill’s two-year reign as sectional champion in convincing style, beating the no. 5 seed Warriors 65-49.
Not content that it had beaten Westhill on this same home court Jan. 26, Marcellus repeated the feat, running all over the Warriors in the first half and building a 39-26 edge to delight the fans in green.
More importantly, it did so spreading the offense around. Kermes still led the way, with 15 points, and fellow stalwart Sexton added 11 points, but all kinds of players hurt the Warriors on this night.
Merriman gained nine points, while Hoy and Blackmer gained eight points. Will Fiacchi and Skvarch both came off the bench to earn six points.
Contrast all this with Westhill’s approach. Jim Ross torched the Mustangs for 24 points, but no other player on the squad had more than six points as Marcellus kept all of Ross’s teammates in check.
With its conquest of Westhill and Sherburne-Earlville complete, Marcellus could now focus on gaining its first-ever sectional title.
Holland Patent had a modest 12-8 mark in the regular season, but had to face Class A teams in the tough Tri-Valley League. Hardened by those experiences, the Golden Knights, a no. 6 seed, have knocked off two higher seeds, South Jefferson and Cazenovia, to get here.
The winner between the Mustangs and Golden Knights will move to the overall Class B final early next week against Canastota or Hannibal, who play for the B-2 crown Friday night at Manley.
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