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Strong defense propels Lakers past Grimes

Without any question, the Skaneateles boys basketball team's 69-39 destruction of Bishop Grimes in Tuesday night's Section III Class B semifinal at Onondaga Community College belonged to Mike Richards.

True, it was Kevin Rice and Pat Roberts that each produced 18 points, with Paul O'Donnell adding 11 points, Brandon Barron getting nine points and Jimmy Atkinson sparkling off the bench with eight points.

Yet it was Richards that stole the spotlight with his magnificent defensive performance. Matched up against Grimes' senior 1,500-point scorer, Mike Stone, Richards completely shut Stone down, holding him without a field goal - and Stone averaged more than 22 points per game entering the night.

"He was absolutely outstanding," said head coach Karl Norris. "But i'm not surprised, because I knew he could do it."

In fact, Richards had pulled off a miniature version of this when Skaneateles beat Grimes 72-43 in the Feb. 18 regular-season finale. Stone managed 16 points, but had to battle for every one of them, and right there the Lakers knew that, if Richards could give constant attention to Stone in the playoff rematch, he could do even better.

So from the moment this game tipped off, Skaneateles applied full-court pressure. Initially, Grimes countered by finding center Mike Sugamosto for baskets, and he delivered 16 points in the first half. But the pressure took a gradual toll as Richards shadowed Stone everywhere he went while, at the same time, point guard Casey Evans rarely had a chance to run the offense, forcing the ball to Stone.

"By making Stone more of a ball-handler, we could run two guys to him," said Norris.

Thus, even when Stone did get a chance, he faced constant double-teams as Rice, Barron and Atkinson took turns helping Richards. All this led to Stone taking a grand total of two shots in the first half - and missing them badly.

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