Jan 04, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All was set for a grand celebration last Thursday night when the undefeated Vernon-Verona-Sherrill boys basketball team took on Whitesboro in front of a packed house in the VVS “Pit”.
With a victory, not only would the Red Devils go to 11-0, it would also give long-time head coach Al Knapp his 500th career victory, a mark gained over 31 seasons on the bench at both VVS and Brookfield.
But the Warriors had no intentions to be a historical footnote.
Instead, with hot shooting all night and lots of poise down the stretch, Whitesboro stunned the state Class A no. 17-ranked Red Devils 78-73 and, by doing so, threw the Tri-Valley League race wide open.
With a noticeable size advantage, Knapp and his players were determined to play closer to the paint in order to negate the Warriors’ quickness and speed.
However, VVS didn’t count on Whitesboro getting red-hot from the perimeter. For the night, it sank nine of 14 3-point attempts, six of them by Junior Woodard, who finished with 23 points.
That hot touch allowed the Warriors to trade baskets with the Red Devils all through the first half, and take a 36-35 edge to the break, causing a lot of concern among the red-clad faithful all set for a celebration.
VVS inched in front, and appeared to be in great shape when Whitesboro’s leading scorer, Joe Bushey, went to the bench with four fouls and sat most of the second half.
However, the Warriors kept on charging and used an 8-0 run to surge in front for good early in the fourth quarter, capped (naturally) by yet another Woodard 3-pointer.
Almost by himself, Evan Croll kept the Red Devils in sight, as he scored 13 of his career-best 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Pushed by Croll, VVS moved within two, 75-73, in the final minute of the game before Woodard and Brandon Rothdeiner combined on a trio of free throws to seal Whitesboro’s huge win.
Aside from Croll, Zack Jensen had 12 points, while Derek Smith gained 11 points. Adam Kemp and Justin Grimm earned eight points apiece. For Whitesboro, T.J. Abounater had 16 points to aid Woodard, as Joe Bushey earned 15 points and Derek Woodard (Junior’s brother) added 12 points.
VVS had pushed that mark to 10-0, and pushed Knapp’s career win mark to 499, by winning its own holiday tournament on Dec. 28 and 29 with relative ease.
In the opening round, the Red Devils romped past Acton, 67-27, never allowing more than seven points in any quarter as it pushed Acton around.
Adam Kemp, setting a new career mark with 13 points, led a balanced attack where Evan Croll earned 12 points. Jared Fink got nine points, while Derek Smith and Joe Barbano earned eight points apiece and Zach Jensen added six points.
The final, against Georgetown, proved to be much closer — but once again, the Red Devils’ defense pulled through in a 52-40 victory.
With a steady, relentless effort, VVS built a 39-27 lead through three periods, leaning heavily on Justin Grimm, who poured in 18 points. Smith stepped up for 13 points, while Croll contributed nine points.
Despite the Whitesboro defeat, Knapp wouldn’t have to wait long to try again for that 500th win, since VVS was meeting rival Oneida Tuesday night prior to a Saturday non-league game at Herkimer.