Accustomed to being a target for hungry opponents, the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team will have to fill that role again as it pursues its first Section III championship since its state title run of 2004.
Even though it was armed with the top seed in the Class A bracket, the Red Rams got a genuine scare from no. 9 seed Utica-Notre Dame in last Friday's quarterfinal round before drawing clear in the second half to beat the Jugglers 88-66.
A young team with just four seniors on its roster, UND had already beaten Chittenango on the road in the opening round of the playoffs and proved, in the first half, that it wasn't intimidated one bit by J-D's long-held reputation.
Easily breaking full-court pressure, the Jugglers used crisp passing and cool precision to drain seven 3-pointers before halftime. Sophomore Pat Moore had four of them, earning 15 of his 25 points as UND hung right with the Rams.
Meanwhile, J-D saw power forward Marcus Williams go to the bench with early foul trouble and watched fellow starters Nick Pascale, Mickey Davis and Greg Stern struggle to contribute anything to the cause.
That meant only thing -- it was time for Brandon Triche to take over.
In his first playoff game since 2006 (he missed the '07 playoffs with that torn ACL), Triche exceeded even his own high standards. He earned 18 consecutive points at one point in the half and finished with 26 points by halftime as the Rams clung to a 35-33 edge at the break.
For a while in the third quarter, the danger loomed. Three different times, UND had chances to go ahead, only to see the shots go off the rim.
The storm then passed, mainly because Triche's help arrived. Williams, Stern, Davis, Pascale and Alshwan Hymes all had good scoring runs as J-D outscored the Jugglers 47-26 the rest of the way.