Jan 16, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Not too long ago, the Liverpool boys basketball season appeared in shambles, with an 0-4 start, an unexpected coaching change and the vast majority of a brutal Class AA schedule still ahead.
Yet now the Warriors appeared to have turned things around, going 4-3 under interim head coach Matt Jacob and capturing the championship of the 39th annual Juggler Classic at Utica-Notre Dame.
In the first round on Saturday, Liverpool took on Nazareth Academy, from New York City, and squeaked out a 58-56 victory.
In the second quarter, the Warriors, down 14-12, outscored Nazareth 19-13 to move in front. A high-scoring third period saw Nazareth move within one, 47-46, and it remained that tight the rest of the way, but Liverpool held on.
Alonzo Grainger hit a trio of 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 13 points. Tyler Bliss managed 10 points, while Dominick Pirro had eight points. Caleb Taylor gained seven points and John Larue got six points.
Now the Warriors drew host Utica-Notre Dame (who sported a 9-2 record) in Sunday’s championship game after the Jugglers beat West Genesee 70-52 in the other part of the opening round. Again, it was close – and again Liverpool pulled it out, outscoring UND 79-75.
All game long, the pace was torrid. Liverpool’s early 19-15 edge disappeared, but it kept matching baskets with the Jugglers all the way to the final moments, where free throws decided it.
Down by two, 77-75, the Jugglers’ Simon Pitman, who poured in 34 points, had two foul shots to tie it, but missed them both. Seconds later, Mike Russo hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
Russo, held without a point against Nazareth, took over here with 23 points. Bliss, with 14 points, and Taylor, with 12 points, also hit double figures, while Abe Odum (seven points) and Grainger (six points) helped out, too.
Before all this, the Warriors did not figure to give undefeated Utica Proctor too much worry last Tuesday night, especially after a brutal third quarter left the hosts far behind.
Yet with two minutes to play, the Warriors were within a basket, ready to complete an improbable comeback, before the Raiders settled down and made a late push to escape with a 71-63 decision.
Trailing by double digits, Liverpool made a push late in the second quarter and, by the break, was within range at 29-26. But when the Raiders cranked up its defensive pressure and forced a long series of Liverpool mistakes in the third quarter, it led to a 17-0 Proctor spurt.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Warriors were down 55-34. At this point, Raiders head coach Norm Stamboly put in reserves, and it backfired. Grainger connected on consecutive 3-pointers, and aided by a Proctor technical fall, the Warriors’ charge continued.
By the time Grainger converted again to cap a 28-7 outburst, Liverpool had cut the margin to 64-62. Now, though, the Raiders’ starters were back, and they forced the Warriors into fouls that translated into five successful free throws, thwarting the rally.
Bliss, with 21 points, and Odum, with 19 points, accounted for a good portion of the Warriors’ attack, while Grainger added 10 points. Proctor’s Maurice Mills had 20 points and Naronn Harvey earned 17 points.
Even in defeat, the confidence gained by the Warriors carried over to the Juggler Classic. Now Liverpool would go for three in a row Tuesday, against Auburn, before a Thursday trip to Baldwinsville – in all, four games in seven days.