Mar 09, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
From Dave Bing to Louis Orr to two generations of high-school heroes, the court at Manley Field House had seen a fair share of outstanding individual performances.
And on the last day where basketball would be played at this Central New York sports landmark, Christian Brothers Academy’s Stefan Thompson gave the building one more jaw-dropping performance.
In order for the Brothers to win its first Section III title since 2003, Thompson had to score 40 points, 21 of them in a blistering fourth-quarter display, to bring CBA back from a double-digit deficit in the Class AA final against Henninger.
As if that wasn’t enough, Thompson led another stirring comeback in overtime, climaxed by a long pass that set up the winning basket as the Brothers beat the Black Knights 76-75 in a game as memorable as any Manley has seen in its 47-year history.
Though tired from all the amazing things he had done on this day, Thompson still had time for one more moment of glory after Henninger’s James Bardenett missed two key free throws with 10.1 seconds left.
Grabbing the rebound, Thompson went down the court, surrounded by Henninger defenders. He was unable to get too far as the seconds ticked away — but all of a sudden, he saw CBA forward Greg Thomson open underneath the Black Knights’ basket.
Stefan threw deep — and Greg caught the long pass, hit the lay-up with 2.2 seconds left, and the Brothers had an improbable championship.
Beating Henninger, in itself, wasn’t a shock, because CBA had done it twice in the regular season — one time on Dec. 10, then again on Feb. 4. In both wins, Thompson was sensational, outplaying the Black Knights’ highly-touted point guard, Kihary Blue.
Now came the third and most important encounter. Henninger, the defending AA champs, had avenged two regular-season losses to beat Utica Proctor in the ’08 finals, and for much of this game, it looked like the pattern would repeat itself.
With Blue in command of his offense and the steady contributions of Bardenett and forwards Jermaine Taylor and Jon Cooper, Henninger kept a steady lead through the first three quarters.
Even with Thompson and Mike Goodman (19 points, 10 rebounds) performing well, CBA found itself behind 45-33 going to the fourth quarter, and the Black Knights were close to securing back-to-back sectional titles.
To this point, Thompson had merely been good. But what he did in the next eight minutes will get talked about as long as basketball is played at CBA.
Between drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers and successful free throws, Thompson erased some of that deficit, making it 59-53 with two minutes left, and Thompson was just warming up.
On back-to-back possessions, Thompson stole it, leading to a basket and a 3-point play that made it 59-58. After Blue’s two foul shots made it 61-58, Thompson drove in for a basket, then got the ball back and made a long jumper.
From way behind, CBA had gone in front, 62-61. But after a Thompson free throw pushed the margin to two, 63-61, the Brothers fouled Cooper with 8.5 seconds left. Amid immense pressure, Cooper made both free throws, and the two sides went to overtime at 63-63.
Again, Henninger moved out in front, leading by five on three separate occasions in that OT period. Again, CBA rallied, including from a 74-69 deficit as Troy Bullock hit a crucial 3-pointer in the final minute.
Henninger still led by one when Bardenett went to the line, and his missed foul shots set up Thompson’s last big play.
Goodman, with his 10 rebounds, passing 1,000 on the career, while Bullock had 10 points. Blue had 31 points, with teammates Jermaine Taylor (13 points), Cooper (12 points) and Hardentt (11 points) all performed well.
CBA has to go through a pair of regional games at Cicero-North Sryacsuse if it wants to advance to the state Class AA final four at Niagara Falls.
First, on Friday, the Brothers meet Massena (Section X), with the winner advancing to face the Section II champion, Albany Academy or Albany CBA, Saturday at CNS.