Dec 31, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
St. Joseph’s, a powerful boys basketball program from the Buffalo area, cared little about local sentiment in the 25th edition of Christian Brothers Academy’s Bottar-Leone Holiday Classic.
The Marauders didn’t let the undefeated mark of Bishop Grimes, or the powerful motivation of CBA trying to get long-time head coach Buddy Wleklinski his 400th career victory, stand in the way of grabbing the first-place trophy by the time the tournament was done.
First, St. Joe’s toppled the Cobras 73-57 in Thursday’s opening round before CBA scraped past Nazareth, of Broooklyn, 33-28. Then, in Friday’s championship game, the Marauders overcame an inspired start from the Brothers to prevail by a score of 69-64.
The final began with CBA bolting out to a 12-0 lead, including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Kevin Bailey, Dylan Haines and Charlie Russo. But St. Joe’s never called a time-out, instead turning to 6-9 senior forward Reginald Agbeko to bring his side back.
And Agbeko did just that, overwhelming the Brothers in the paint with a nifty combination of quickness and skill. He had 18 points in the first half alone, helping the Marauders tie it, 20-20, before two more 3-pointers from Russo helped CBA move back in front, 35-31, by halftime.
Early in the third quarter, the Brothers stretched the margin to 41-33. But St. Joe’s had been here before, in the first round, trailing Bishop Grimes before unleashing six 3-pointers in a 29-14 blitz through the third quarter that turned things around.
Sure enough, as the Marauders picked up full-court pressure, CBA started to turn it over with regularity. And in a span of less than three minutes, St. Joe’s put together a 16-0 blitz, eight of the points coming from Kyle Briggs, who had all 10 of his points in the second half.
CBA never faded away, Russo (who finished with 21 points) and Cam MacPherson (10 points, all in the second half) leading the push as the Brothers pushed St. Joe’s to the wire. Agbeko proved too much, though, getting several key baskets in the homestretch and, with 31 points, earning tournament MVP honors.
All this proved a total contrast to CBA’s tough effort against Nazareth the night before. A ragged first half saw both sides struggle, the Brothers going to the break nursing an unusual 11-5 lead.
By outscoring Nazareth 14-7 in the third period, CBA got clear, and Haines had much to do with it. The 6-9 senior center augmented his 12 points with 12 blocks, thought to be a single-game school record. Russo had nine points and Bailey added eight points.
In the other first-round game, Bishop Grimes, at 6-0 and no. 6 in the state Class B rankings, watched St. Joe’s rally behind Jordan Glover, who got 13 of his team-high 20 points in that pivotal third period as Agbeko added 17 points.
For the Cobras, Steve Lembo had a season-best 18 points, while Jon Carnegie (12 points), Gai Ater and Casey Evans (10 points each) also hit double figures.
Still, Grimes found itself in Friday’s consolation game against Nazareth, where a late comeback fell just short and the Cobras lost again, 72-64.
Trailing 11-4 early, Nazareth turned the game around with a 15-0 run that spanned the first and second periods. Early in the fourth quarter, Grimes trailed, 51-35, but used a 3-point barrage to storm back, Ater’s trey making it 66-64 with 21 seconds left.
Nazareth put the game away, though, by hitting on six straight free throws in the waning seconds. Ater and Carnegie both led the Cobras with 19 points, while Evans (an All-Tournament selection) and Lembo each had 10 points. Tom Steinberg added six points.
CBA will try again to get Wleklinski his 400th win next Friday, at Chittenango, just as Grimes has the first of two highly-anticipated showdowns with Bishop Ludden in East Syracuse.
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