Mar 12, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For an entire year, the Christian Brothers Academy had devoted itself to going just a few steps further than it did in 2006, when it won the Section III Class A title but lost in the regional finals.
All went according to plan for 23 games. The Brothers went 22-1, repeated as sectional champions and even rose to the top of the state Class A rankings, an imposing squad seemingly destined for Troy and the state final four.
Except that CBA never got there.
In precisely the same round where the dream ended 12 months ago, the Brothers ran into Malone (Section X) and were toppled again, this time by a score of 55-51, in last Saturday’s regional final at SUNY-Potsdam.
What had gone right for so long — hot shooting from the perimeter, combined with a pressure defense that forced opponents into a slew of turnovers — went awry at the worst possible time.
Part of it could be attributed to the regional schedule. Unlike all other Section III champions, CBA had to play two regional games. Not only that, it had to do so in a span of less than 24 hours, a long way from home.
It all began last Friday, with a long bus trip north to SUNY-Canton for the first regional game against Section VII champion Peru.
This part of the equation was handled with relative ease, as the Brothers hit nine 3-pointers and left Peru far behind on its way to an 84-49 victory.
All the necessary pieces were in place, especially the offense. CBA piled up the points as it built a 46-24 halftime lead and never let Peru get closer.
Sarah Paulus led the attack, earning 23 points and hitting three 3-pointers. Most of Amanda Billy’s 18 points came from beyond the arc as she connected on four treys.
The freshmen contributed, too, as Nikki Works had 10 points and Leanne Ockenden gained nine points. Meredith Mosley (eight points), Kayla Stroman and Titi Jimenez (six points each) added to the depth.
No matter how easily CBA won, though, it faced the prospect of hopping over to Potsdam and, on Saturday afternoon, confronting a Malone team that also was 22-1 and boasted enough size, and talent, to make the Brothers worry.
There was reason for that concern. After inching in front 15-12 through one period, CBA went cold in the game’s middle stages, allowing the Huskies to build a 40-31 lead by the end of the third quarter.
By far, the biggest problem for the Brothers was Malone’s inside strength. Beth Wiggins had 14 points and 12 rebounds, adding seven blocks, six assists and three steals for good measure. Wiggins’ front-court mate, Haley Poupore, had 16 points and seven rebounds.
In the final period, the deficit grew to 11. To that point in the game, the Brothers had made just one 3-pointer — but facing the possible end of its dream run, CBA found its stroke.
Billy and Ockenden combined to make four 3-pointers to trim away most of Malone’s margin , and when Billy hit again from beyond the arc with less than two minutes left, CBA had pulled within one, 49-48.
Making a stand, the Huskies got a critical baseline jumper from Ashley Marshall and two free throws from Alyson Johnson with 21.8 seconds left to make it 53-48 before Billy’s fourth 3-pointer made it 53-51 with 17.6 seconds to go.
Forced to foul, CBA put Popoure on the line with 16 seconds left. Popoure made both shots, and the Brothers could not answer.
As Malone moved on to meet Newark (Section V) in this weekend’s state semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College, the Brothers pondered the end of a great 22-2 campaign that came awfully close to being greater.
Billy, with more than 1,000 career points, leaves the scene, as does Mosley and three other seniors. But with Paulus, Stroman, Ockenden, Works, Jimenez and Jamie Carrick still in the fold, CBA will expect to get a third straight sectional title in 2007-08 — and just maybe, take those last elusive steps to the top.