Jan 29, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Many happy expressions were on the faces of the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team as it snagged an earthshaking overtime home victory over a state top-10 opponent.
And this is not a recording.
A mere six days after stunning undefeated Utica Proctor on its home floor, F-M trapped another highly-regarded foe in the “Hornets’ Nest”, this time beating Henninger 48-42.
The overflow crowd, and the noise and emotion generated from it, was something head coach Tom Blackford said had a lot to do with both upsets.
“We couldn’t win these games without the home-court advantage,” he said. “The kids (players and students) are all friends. Whatever the sports season, they migrate to each other’s games and support each other. The interaction is fantastic, and it’s so cool.”
Total support from the fans is nice — but effort and determination is even better. F-M showed both traits in rallying past Proctor, and repeated that behavior to pull it out against Henninger.
As always, it started with defense. Combined, F-M forwards Meril Tili, Greg Gaulin and T.J. Wilson put extra heat on Henninger’s 7-foot junior forward, Ben Cronin, driving him away from the basket and holding him to just three points.
“It was their job to be physical (with Ben) and to keep him out of the paint,” said Blackford. “By doing that, we rebounded with them.”
Also, Patrick Lee held his own against Henninger’s superb senior forward, David Simmons. He played the entire fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls, and sprained his ankle in OT, but managed to stay in there.
“When you have four fouls, you just can’t make stupid mistakes,” said Lee. “You just keep playing and executing, and can’t let down.”
Just like it did against Proctor, the Hornets dictated the game’s tempo, never allowing the Black Knights to run and instead making it a physical, half-court game where it could stay patient and produce the key baskets, when necessary.
By doing so, F-M led for most of the first three quarters, only to see Henninger claw back and take the lead numerous times in the final period.
Each time that happened, though, Brett Small or Ethan Gilbert would come up with a big jump shot. Small’s free throw tied it, 38-38, with 1:08 left in regulation, and when neither team could break the deadlock, they went to overtime.
Here, F-M took advantage of Henninger’s attrition, as three players — Simmons, Brian Wilson and Robbie Keefe — fouled out. Small, Lee and Gilbert accounted for all of the Hornets’ OT points with free throws.
Small led the way with 16 points. Gilbert added 10 points, part of a big weekend where he was also honored by the National Football Foundation for his football and academic accomplishments at Sunday’s Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet at Turning Stone Resort.
F-M (12-4, 9-1 league) now had to show its stuff on the road. It visited Fowler on Tuesday and goes to West Genesee Friday night, all in pursuit of the team’s first league championship since 1984.
“It (beating Proctor and Henninger) is a great feeeling, but we’ve got to keep it up for the rest of the season,” said Lee.