East Syracuse For all the fast-paced intensity of Saturday night's Section III Class B boys basketball quarterfinal between Bishop Grimes and Skaneateles, the game turned on what took place when everything stopped.
The no. 3 seed Cobras' ability to consistently covert at the free-throw line, and the Lakers' immense struggles at that same charity stripe, had much to do with Grimes prevailing by a score of 61-53.
Previous meetings offered a backdrop to this playoff match. Grimes had beaten Skaneateles 66-48 on Jan. 17, though that came without the Lakers' second-leading scorer, Jimmy Atkinson, on the floor due to an ankle injury.
Much more pertinent was the fact that these two teams had met in the sectional semifinals each of the last two seasons, Grimes prevailing 70-66 in double overtime in 2010, Skaneateles coming out on top 69-39 a year later.
So now they played a round earlier, and the Cobras started with much more energy than the visiting Lakers, leading through the entire first half and building the margin to 27-14 at one point.
Only the work of Atkinson, who had 10 first-half points, kept Skaneateles within range, and though it led 32-23 at the break, Grimes had to be concerned that it hadn't put things away.
Sure enough, Skaneateles sprung to life in the third quarter, going on a 15-4 run, six of the points from Kyle McQuiggan. It was capped by Atkinson's 3-pointer that tied the game at 41-41 in the last minute of the period.
Yet the seeds for the Lakers' doom were sown in this period, too. Skaneateles used aggressive play to earn 10 trips to the free-throw line, but only made two of the foul shots, some of them well off target.
Thus, even when Skaneateles seized brief leads of 44-43 and 48-47 early in the fourth quarter, it left itself vulnerable when Grimes started to push back. The fact that the Lakers, due to defensive pressure, were forced to use all of their time-outs did not help them, either.