Mar 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A single, accurate shot was all that separated the Marcellus boys basketball team from its first-ever Section III championship.
What’s more, the Mustangs had the right man — leading scorer John Kermes — in the right position to take that shot in the waning seconds of overtime in last Friday night’s Class B-1 final against Holland Patent at Manley Field House.
“You certainly want John taking the last shot,” said head coach Jim Marsh.
But the shot glanced off the rim and refused to fall, resulting in a 69-68 defeat to the Golden Knights — and heartbreak for the hundreds of Marcellus partisans that flocked to Manley, hoping to witness history.
Win or lose, though, this night — and this game — was a memorable affair. Once down by 17 in the second half, the Mustangs made it all up and had leads late in regulation and overtime before HP sank clutch free throws to pull it out.
Just being in the final was historic enough. The last time Marcellus got this far was 1962, when it lost an equally narrow final to Ilion 64-62. More than four decades later, it proved to be just as exciting.
Holland Patent, a no. 6 seed that had gone 12-8 in the regular season in a Tri-Valley League mostly populated by Class A teams, knocked off no. 3 seed South Jefferson and no. 2 seed Cazenovia to get to the finals.
And the Golden Knights had similar success in the early stages of the final, going on a 15-0 run that stretched well into the second quarter. It took Kevin Merriman hitting some outside shots late in the half to keep the Mustangs within sight, 35-22, as the teams went to the break.
Midway through the third quarter, little had changed. Marcellus trailed, 45-28, and there was little indication it could put a dent into HP’s big margin.
By the time the period ended, though, the comeback had begun.
Kermes had seven points in a 14-5 run that sliced the margin to eight, 50-42, and as they went to the fourth quarter, Marcellus picked up the tempo even more, using its depth and athleticism to tire HP out.
“We wore them down,” said Marsh. “To come all the way back and fight like that was tremendous.”
Despite this surge, Marcellus still trailed, 60-53, with three minutes left, and needed more magic to have a chance.
Kyle Blackmer and Kermes both hit baskets to cut the margin to three. With 41 seconds left, Merriman converted to make it 60-59, then tied up HP’s Jared Keyte with 31.6 seconds to play, giving the ball to the Mustangs on the possession arrow.
With the Golden Knights worried about Kermes and Merriman, Blackmer got open near the basket and, with nine seconds left, scored to put Marcellus up, 61-60, its first lead since it was 8-7 in the game’s opening minutes.
HP did not call time-out. Instead, it drove to the basket and missed a shot. However, Dave Golembiowski got the rebound and, with one second to play, was fouled hard as he missed the putback.
Amid deafening noise from the Marcellus fans in the arena, Golembiowski went to the line — and sank the tying free throw. He missed the second, but that initial conversion made it 61-61 and forced overtime.
Kermes opened the OT with a 3-pointer, but Golembiowski answered with one of his own. It kept going back and forth until, with 30 seconds to play, Merriman hit another big basket to put the Mustangs back in front 69-68.
Golembiowski stayed aggressive and was fouled again with 15.2 seconds left. This time around, he made both free throws, and the Golden Knights were up by one.
Marsh said that, for the final sequence, the plan was to go inside to Blackmer, who could use his size to get a close-up look. Blackmer was covered, though, so Merriman went to Kermes, who had a game-high 24 points, in the left corner.
Though well-defended, Kermes still put up a clear shot. It rattled off the front rim, and time ran out before the Mustangs could get the ball back.
All game long, guard Wes Hoy had a big presence, and he finished with 13 points. Merriman had eight points, while Nate Sexton and Jeff Watson earned seven points apiece and Blackmer added six points.
Keyte led HP with 22 points. Golembiowski’s clutch free throws helped him finish with 16 points as teammates Mike Ellis and Don Whitaker each finished with 12 points.
The defeat left Marcellus with a mark of 17-6. It lost just twice after starting 3-4, prevailing in 14 of 15 games prior to the sectional final, one of the hottest runs in the program’s history.
Now it must find a way to replace Kermes, Hoy, Merriman and Sexton, not to mention Dave Canfield, Alex Skvarch and Joe Manitta. Together, they pushed Marcellus to within a few inches of history.