Feb 23, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
What took a full game for the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team to build in Friday night’s Section III Class AA quarterfinal at Liverpool nearly dissipated in less than seven seconds.
That’s the span of time where a five-point Hornets lead melted away — and only a bad, spur-of-the-moment decision prevented possible overtime as, by a score of 62-61, F-M kept its championship dreams alive.
As a result, the no. 5 seed Hornets will try to take down top seed and defending champion Henninger in this weekend’s AA semifinals, with the winner to get CBA or Utica Proctor in the March 7 title game at Manley Field House.
Given all that happened in the frantic homestretch at Liverpool, F-M was just happy to still be in the picture.
Never trailing all night, the Hornets still found itself tied, 57-57, when Mike O’Neil hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:11 left to put F-M back in front.
Twice, Liverpool’s Jesse Gates tried to tie it with 3-point shots. Brian Zapisek blocked one of them, and the other went off the rim. Fouled with 11.1 seconds left, O’Neil calmly sank both free throws, and with the Hornets ahead 62-57, it looked to be safe, as long as F-M didn’t foul.
So naturally F-M fouled Liverpool’s Connor Rogers driving to the basket with 6.7 seconds left, a major blunder — especially after Rogers sank the free throws to make it 62-59, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass with plenty of time to tie it with a 3-pointer.
Amid the frenzy, though, Liverpool’s Richard Green forgot the game situation and drove in for a lay-up to cut the margin to one. F-M didn’t contest the basket and the Warriors, out of time-outs, watched the clock run out.
F-M had lost at Liverpool Jan. 9, a game where head coach Tom Blackford said that poor shooting played a big role in the outcome. At least in the opening stages of the rematch, that wasn’t a problem.
Propelled by Zapisek and Jack Giles, the Hornets roared out to a 15-4 lead, then closed the first quarter with 10 points in 90 seconds to go ahead 27-14. But Liverpool adjusted and held F-M in check during the second period, making up most of the deficit.
Only ahead by three (33-30) at the break, the Hornets saw Liverpool tie the game twice. Both times, the Hornets regained the edge, Zapisek at one point reeling off six straight points on his way to 20 points and 12 rebounds for the night.
Giles returned in the fourth quarter, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to build his total to 18 points, as F-M went ahead 57-49. But the Warriors’ defense clamped down, holding the Hornets scoreless for four minutes, and tied it again, 57-57, setting up the final act.
O’Neill’s big baskets down the stretch left him with 11 points, with Erik Mueller adding eight points. Gates, quiet in the first half, got 20 of his 21 points after the break to key Liverpool’s comeback as Rogers came off the bench to earn 12 points. Cam Jones added 11 points.
F-M and Henninger just met, of course, in a Feb. 10 overtime classic where the Black Knights came from behind twice — once in regulation, then again in OT — to prevail 75-68 on the Hornets’ home court.
Tough as that loss was, F-M left knowing that, with a little more work and a little more luck, it could beat Henninger again. Now, it will get that chance.