Jan 19, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In order for the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team to have a better shot at ending that 58-year sectional championship drought, it had to do something about a much shorter dry spell against a key opponent.
That would be Henninger, who beat the Hornets in last year’s Section III Class AA semifinal. Following years of Black Knights domination in this series, F-M finally came out on top Friday night, holding on for a 69-61 victory in front of a loud, overflow home crowd.
“This is a big win for us,” said F-M head coach Tom Blackford. “We have been trying to get over this hump (beating Henninger), and this will help our confidence.”
John Schurman led the Hornets, the junior forward posting 23 points, including a crucial 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that broke a long Hornets field-goal drought and stymied Henninger’s rally from an 11-point deficit earlier in the half.
“They gave us a fight, but we were resilient,” said Schurman.
Just as important was how the Hornets’ 1-3-1 defense responded in the game’s latter stages to a big first half from Black Knights forward Ahmad McKinney.
Though F-M never trailed after giving up the game’s first field goal, McKinney, all by himself, made sure that the Hornets didn’t get comfortable. He scored Henninger’s first 13 points and had 20 points by halftime, keeping the Black Knights within four, 34-30, as they went to the break.
Blackford said that McKinney was getting too many open looks on the baseline, so in the second half the Hornets closed up its interior defense, rotating several forwards to cover McKinney and daring Henninger to beat them with outside shots.
It worked, as McKinney was kept without a field goal for the game’s last 13-plus minutes, so though he finished with 25 points to lead both sides, McKinney would not be a factor down the stretch.
In particular, Blackford praised sophomore T.J. Wheatley, calling his performance “phenomenal”. Beyond his 12 points, Wheatley also controlled the glass for long stretches of the game, giving F-M extra possessions as he piled up 15 rebounds.
F-M nearly got away in that third period, stretching its margin to 47-36. But the Black Knights clawed back to within 56-54, by the fourth quarter, aided by a defense that held the Hornets without a field goal for more than five minutes.
Then, with 3:01 left and F-M still clinging to a 58-54 edge, point guard Jake Wittig drew a double team at the top of the key. That left Schurman open and, from well beyond the 3-point arc, Schurman took Wittig’s pass and drained the shot, extending the margin to 61-54.
Though the Black Knights got within four in the final minute, F-M had enough of a cushion thanks to the free-throw shooting of Tomer Nesher. Held scoreless in the first half, Nesher had all 14 of his points after the break, 10 of them from successful foul shots, and added eight rebounds.
Wittig produced 13 assists to go with his seven points, while Parker Harris came off the bench and added seven points.