Mar 07, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Anthony DelCoro had no choice. He had to shoot.
The clock was winding down to zero, and the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team trailed Utica Proctor by two points in Sunday’s Section III Class AA final. A loud, large and raucous crowd at Utica Memorial Auditorium was on its feet, most of them ready to celebrate the hometown Raiders’ third sectional title in five years.
With every one of his teammates covered, and having just received the pass from Zach Coleman, DelCoro, the senior reserve who transferred from Christian Brothers Academy just before the season began, let fly with a shot from at least 25 feet out, well behind the 3-point line.
“It was a heave,” DelCoro said. “I was just trying to get a shot up there.”
And it didn’t look too good. The shot was high and way too strong. It had no chance to go straight into the basket, or even hit the rim. As the ball hung in the air, DelCoro and nine other players — four from CNS, five from Proctor — waited near the basket.
“That shot was in the air forever,” John Howell said.
Finally, the ball made contact with the glass to the right of the hoop, at just the perfect angle so that it could ricochet right through the net as the buzzer sounded.
“I freaked out, I couldn’t believe it,” DelCoro said.
Name the adjective — incredible, improbable, miraculous, unbelievable, stunning, shocking, exciting, dramatic, historic — every one of them applied to DelCoro’s bank shot that gave the Northstars a 61-60 victory and its first-ever sectional championship.
The reactions told the story. As the Proctor players froze in shock and the hometown fans went quiet, the CNS partisans went crazy- and so did the players, piling on DelCoro at midcourt. Just as happy was head coach John Haas, but even he couldn’t believe it.
“It was ridiculous the way it happened,” Haas said.
Then again, perhaps the finish was appropriate, given how tightly the game was played — and how, all season, the Northstars had kept responding to adversity in a positive manner.
Here, the obstacles were multiple, not the least of which was Proctor playing in front of home fans in Utica. As the game went on, it was clear the Raiders were not going to let CNS’s two leading scorers, Coleman and Andy Falvey, be a compelling factor.
So others had to step up — including DelCoro and Howell. Long before hitting the shot of his life, DelCoro had played a starring role with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers that allowed the Northstars to keep pace. Two other reserves, Vaughndell Brantley and Josh Williams, combined for 14 more points to help out, too.
Meanwhile, Howell set a season mark with 17 points, climaxing in the lay-up with 43 seconds left that tied the game, 58-58, after CNS trailed by six with less than two minutes to play.
“John has been frustrated much of the year,” Haas said. “To have a game like this is really special for him.”
Despite all their struggles, it was Coleman and Falvey who hit the baskets that cut the margin to 58-56, and Coleman’s steal and long pass that set up Howell with the tying basket.
Proctor did not panic, though. Walkery Mills, who led his side with 18 points on the day, drained a short jumper with 19 seconds left to push the Raiders back ahead, 60-58.
After a time-out, CNS point guard Deyon Smith, held without a field goal all day, tried to drive to the basket, but was tied up by several Proctor defenders with 3.4 seconds to play.
Here came the first of two huge breaks, for the possession arrow belonged to CNS, giving it one more chance from underneath the basket. Haas again called time-out, saying later that, ideally, he wanted someone to get open inside for a tying basket to force overtime.
Howell would bring the ball inbounds. Finding nothing open inside, he passed to Coleman, who didn’t want to shoot, so he swung it to DelCoro — and watched a miracle unfold.
CNS will face Albany-Christian Brothers Academy Saturday night at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy in the Class AA regional finals. The winner advances to next weekend’s state final four in Glens Falls.