Feb 11, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Often when the Section III boys basketball playoffs roll around, some teams get placed in the category of “team no one wants to face”.
Right about now, Bishop Grimes perfectly fits into that profile, having closed out the regular season with eight consecutive wins to earn the respect — and fear — of all possible post-season foes.
Already with a five-game surge by the time it met Skaneateles last Wednesday night, the Cobras further added to that total and got another spellbinding performance from Eric Ball to beat the Lakers 70-53 and get payback for a 60-55 defeat earlier in the season.
Grimes needed less than three minutes to put up 16 points in the first quarter and take the lead for good, and for the rest of the night Skaneateles was forced to give chase. The margin got to 22, 56-34, in the third period before the Cobras cooled down a bit.
The constant theme, all the way through, was Ball’s ability to tear up the Laker defense. From drives to the basket to drilling six 3-pointers, Ball was unstoppable, finishing with 34 points, nearly half of the Cobras’ overall output.
Joe Basla provided some help, hitting three 3-pointers of his own to account for most of his 11 points, while Mike Stone had seven points. Eric Richards led Skanetaeles with 15 points as John Eppolito (12 points) and Jake Tracy (11 points) closely followed.
Two nights later, the other Lakers from Cazenovia arrived, and Grimes was bent on avenging a 74-49 defeat at Buckley Gym back on Jan. 4.
Once again, that payback was attained, as the Cobras delighted a huge Senior Night crowd by overcoming Ball’s early foul trouble and beating the Lakers 73-64.
In all, six seniors — Ball, Frank Majka, Keith Kwasigroch, Mike Spina, Mike Landers and the injured Pete Penizotto — were honored on this night, but the party nearly got spoiled early.
Frustrated by a second foul that he picked up just 2:27 into the game, Ball argued it — and drew a technical foul. This forced him to the bench for the rest of the first half, and Grimes had to play for more than 15 straight minutes without its prime offensive engine.
For a while, that would hurt, as Cazenovia staked itself to a 21-10 lead by the early part of the second quarter, pushed there by Cody Ash, who had a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) by halftime, but would cool off later.
Determined to prove it could play well with Ball on the bench, the other Cobras stepped up, especially Majka, who had eight of his 13 points in the second quarter to lead a comeback that crept Grimes within two, 33-31, by halftime.
Then Ball returned and, after the Lakers stretched the margin to 41-35 early in the third quarter, he began to dominate, scoring eight points in that frame as Grimes surged into the lead and clung to it, 51-50, going into the final period.
For a while in that fourth quarter, no one would break. Then Ball hit a jumper with 5:50 left that broke a 55-55 tie and ignited a decisive 10-1 outburst, which Ball himself punctuated with a steal and dunk with 2:30 to play. Cazenovia never got closer than four points again.
Ball finished with 20 points, 17 of them in the second half. Getting a rare start on Senior Night, Kwasigroch stepped up, hitting a trio of 3-pointers and matching Stone with 14 points. Zach Vaught earned eight points.
Cazenovia lost even though it had a well-balanced attack where Trent Widrick (17 points), Ash (16 points), Bryan Wight (14 points) and Chris Nourse (13 points) all broke into double figures. The Lakers did not help itself at the foul line, only making 10 of 24 attempts.
When Mexico backed out of a possible regular-season finale, Grimes filled that spot by playing Syracuse Academy of Science — and despite the fatigue of a third game in four days, the Cobras still made it eight in a row with a 74-56 victory.
SAS actually led, 19-15, after one period, but the Cobras took over by going on a 25-9 run to close the half. Ball poured home 25 points, while Stone (11 points) and Majka (10 points) also hit double figures. Kucjok Ater came off the bench to score seven points.
When the Class B-1 playoff pairings were announced, Grimes (13-7), the no. 4 seed, found that it would host Cazenovia again as the no. 5 seed Lakers come to East Syracuse Friday night at 7 p.m.