Dec 28, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Far too often in the nine-year history of the Vince Celi Memorial Tournament, the team that Celi once coached at East Syracuse-Minoa has watched someone else snag the top spot.
Not this year, though, as the Spartans remained undefeated and moved to 7-0 by knocking off Auburn 71-53 in Wednesday afternoon’s tournament final.
It looked, on paper, to be perhaps the biggest challenge to ESM’s perfect march so far. Auburn was 3-3, but the Maroons were on a three-game win streak following an 0-3 start where it lost to Rush-Henrietta, Fayetteville-Manlius and Corcoran (all Class AA teams) by a combined 10 points.
And the first half appeared to confirm those fears. The teams traded the lead throughout an 18-18 first quarter, but led by Kareef Rufus, who had 10 points in the second quarter, Auburn gained a 36-30 edge.
No one realized it at the time, but it was Dan MacDougall’s 3-pointer in the last minute of the half that turned the game around. Suddenly, ESM was within three, 36-33, at the break, and the energy gained from that trey carried over, especilally on the defensive side.
Frustrated, and unable to find anything open, Auburn only managed two field goals in the entire third quarter and its top player, Mike Granato, had just two points the entire second half.
Meanwhile, guards Jeff McDuffie and Bobby Campese kept hitting crucial baskets in a 20-5 spurt, and when Campese’s runner beat the buzzer, the Spartans took a 50-41 lead to the fourth quarter. Auburn never got closer than eight points again.
McDuffie, named the tournament MVP, and Campese led with 14 points apiece. In all, five ESM players reached double figures as Casey Sullivan managed 13 points, Keith Caiello got 12 points and Brandon Russell managed 10 points. Campese and Sullivan joined McDuffie on the All-Tournament team.
A day earlier, ESM got past Mexico 54-45 in the Celi Touranment’s opening round. The Tigers, fresh off giving Jamesville-DeWitt a scare on Dec. 23 (it only trailed by six going to the fourth quarter before the Red Rams pulled away late), tried to slow the game down, but could not produce much.
Steadily, the Spartans built a 37-26 lead through three periods, and held off Mexico’s late push due to McDuffie, who landed 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and sank six successful free throws. Sullivan added 13 points, while Caiello got seven points and Campese six points.
Auburn beat Baldwinsville 75-63 in the other half of the opening round as Granato managed 21 points and Kyree Rufus added 20 points. The Bees rebounded on Wednesday to rout Mexico 73-51 in the consolation game for third place.
Meanwhile, the girls basketball Spartans managed a second-place finish in its segment of the Vince Celi Memorial Tournament, starting with last Tuesday’s 50-43 win over Auburn in the opening round.
The key sequence came early. ESM fell behind, 12-2, but outscored the Maroons 27-15 the rest of the half and took the lead for good, withstanding all of Auburn’s late pushes.
Against Baldwinsville in Wednesday’s championship round, the Spartans could not sustain a strong start and lost a 36-30 decision to the Bees.
For the most part, ESM shut down B’ville in the first quarter, racing to a 13-4 lead. Yet the Bees reversed those results the rest of the half and tied it, 17-17, and they stayed close through the third quarter, too.
But ESM, up 29-28 going into that final frame, went cold once more, worn down by B’ville’s defensive pressure and unable to stop tournament MVP Maggie Monnat, who had 20 points, more than half the Bees’ total.
Gabby Eure and Rebecca Nelso led the Spartans with 11 points apiece. Whitesboro beat Auburn 61-52 for third place.
So the girls Spartans are 4-5, ready to host Cortland on Jan. 6 after a nine-day rest. ESM’s boys team will put its perfect mark on the line on the road against the state Class A no. 20-ranked Purple Tigers, its biggest challenge so far.