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Rams rise to Juggler Classic title

Through seven games, and seven one-sided victories, the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team had learned little about itself.

But that's all changed now. What the Red Rams accomplished in a crowded 48-hour stretch -- three close wins against three high-quality opponents, done in three different ways -- might resonate through the rest of the team's quest to win a third consecutive state Class A championship.

First, J-D survived that 46-41 clash with archrival Christian Brothers Academy Friday night at Buddy Wleklinski Court. Then, with no time to recuperate, the Red Rams went east to the 37th Juggler Classic at SUNY-Utica Tech and earned the championship.

The odyssey in Utica commenced with Saturday's opening-round game against Bishop Kearney (Rochester), and it took overtime for the Red Rams to beat the Kings 65-64.

Despite being from separate sections, J-D and Kearney, the reigning state Class B champions (it moved up to Class A this season) had already played once -- on Dec. 5, in the Peppino's Invitational at Henninger, where the Rams breezed to an 89-76 victory.

Kearney would make the rematch far more taxing, even though it trailed 14-4 after one period and, after a brief push in the middle of the game, saw J-D restore its lead to 44-35 as the fourth quarter got underway.

Led by Roderick Gray, the Kings roared back in the fourth quarter, forcing a 56-56 tie by the end of regulation. Of Gray's 32 points, 11 of them came in the final period as he accounted for more than half of Kearney's offense.

The duel continued into the four-minute OT period, with neither side getting away. It was still tied, 64-64, when, with three seconds left, Lamar Kearse was fouled.

Just a day after hitting the clinching free throws to sink CBA, Kearse made one foul shot, and Kearney could not answer with the winning basket as time ran out.

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