Mar 23, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Certainly a comeback was going to happen.
That was in the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team’s blood, the fact that it never felt out of a game, no matter how dire the circumstances.
So when the Brothers fell behind Niagara Falls early in last Saturday’s state Class AA semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center, it was just a matter of time before CBA would regroup and catch the Wolverines, adding another chapter to this season’s thick book of memories.
Only this time, the rally never happened.
Niagara Falls, with smothering defense and relentless pressure, would keep its lead the rest of the way, and CBA took a 59-49 defeat, ending its dream of adding a second state title to the one it claimed in Class C back in 1997.
Given the fact that it beat Jamesville-DeWitt, the dramatic way it came back on Henninger in the Section III Class AA final, and the clutch performances it delivered against Albany CBA in the regional finals, the Brothers rode a month-long wave of momentum to Glens Falls.
Yet CBA knew that a major challenge awaited them. Niagara Falls, led in the past by the likes of Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn, had gone to seven state final fours in the past nine years and was quite used to this grand stage. Nothing the Wolverines would see here would be unfamiliar.
So Niagara Falls was not fazed in any way when Mike Kitts opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and Stefan Thompson used a pair of free throws to give CBA a quick 5-0 edge.
Within less than two minutes, the Wolverines had tied it, 7-7, and were off on a 13-2 run that proved an early turning point, for Niagara Falls would not trail again.
Right from the opening tip, CBA found itself under duress every time it had the ball. Whether it was Thompson, or someone else, they never found much open space in the face of the Wolverines’ man-to-man pressure, which led to turnovers and transition baskets on the other end.
Down 18-11 after one period, CBA saw the deficit grow to 30-17 at one point before a mini-surge late in the period cut the margin to 33-23 at the break.
For a brief moment early in the third quarter, the trademark Brothers comeback appeared to be taking form, as Thompson drained a 3-pointer and Mike Goodman hit on a basket, making it 33-28, the closest it had been since the opening period.
The Wolverines answered with a 7-0 run, only to have CBA creep back within six, 41-35, by the end of the third period on yet another Thompson 3-pointer and Sean Wayne converting a jumper.
CBA remained stuck in place during the fourth quarter, though, as Niagara Falls gradually pulled away and made a fair share of free throws, too.
In defeat, Thompson set the pace for the Brothers as he earned 18 points, while Wayne earned 10 points. Goodman, in his final high-school game, had 15 rebounds, but managed just seven points in the face of the Wolverines’ pressure.
Kelvin Agee led Niagara Falls, pouring in 20 points, as Davon Marshall got 18 points, most of it from four well-timed 3-pointers. Center Mike Crumpton added 10 points to outscore Goodman in the paint.
Niagara Falls went on to lose Sunday’s state final 62-42 to Newburgh Free Academy, who completed a remarkable journey to the title that included sinking a shot beyond half court at the buzzer to beat Mount Vernon by one in the regional finals.
As for CBA, who won its first overall sectional title since 2003, following up this 21-5 season will be quite a task as Goodman, Thompson, Kitts and Kevin Yarnell depart. Wayne, Troy Bullock and Pat Wiese lead the returning cast in 2009-10.