ESM, Bishop Grimes win playoff openers

First-round Section III playoff victories by the East Syracuse-Minoa and Bishop Grimes boys basketball teams lead to big challenges in the quarterfinal round this weekend.

As the no. 9 seed in Class A, the Spartans put together an impressive effort Tuesday night, going to no. 8 seed Chittenango and upending the Bears 61-45.

Having not qualified for the playoffs until the last week of the regular season, the Spartans took aim at Chittenango on the same hostile court where it had lost to the Bears, 58-51, on Jan. 28.

Here, though, ESM would never trail. Even when an early 13-5 lead vanished as Chittenango tied it, 15-15, early in the second quarter, the Spartans' zone defense was causing the Bears all kinds of trouble.

Chittenango managed just one field goal in the last 6:33 of the half as ESM zoomed to a 25-17 lead at the break, and all through the third quarter the Spartans kept fending off all of the Bears' attempts to inch closer.

Yet no play proved bigger than Matt Placito's 3-pointer from the corner at the end of the period. Just like that, ESM's 37-32 lead grew to eight, and it launched a 16-2 run that all but settled matters.

Placito had eight of those points, and of his 14 points, 12 came in the second half. Sharif Nero, Ryan Dadey and Casey Sullivan each finished with eight points as Josh Stuper added six points. Devin Christopher (12 points) and Mike Scott (10 points) led Chittenango's effort.

As this was going on, Bishop Grimes, the no. 5 seed in Class B, hosted no. 12 seed Holland Patent, who had faced Class A competition all year within the Tri-Valley League. It took four quarters of effort for the Cobras to eliminate the Golden Knights 78-65.

In terms of production, things picked up after a first quarter where HP managed just six points. As the pace quickened, the Golden Knights started to convert on a regular basis, and Grimes only carried a 34-24 lead to the break.

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